Judge Robert Hood on Monday sentenced 16-year-old Delarrett Canzater one of eight attackers in the 2011 Carter Strange beating case in Five Points to eight years in prison after Canzater pleaded guilty to assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.
At 16 years old, the issues in your life ought to be how good are my grades, what sports am I going to play and am I going to get my drivers license, said Hood, just before pronouncing sentence in a hushed Richland County courtroom.
Hood chose not to give Canzater probation which his defense attorney Connie Breeden asked for after viewing Canzaters confidential criminal record as a juvenile before he was arrested in June 2011 on charges he was one of Stranges attackers.
The teens confidential juvenile criminal history showed that Canzater had a pattern of behavior that merited prison time instead of probation, Hood said. At the time of the beating, Canzater was 14 and had completed 8th grade.
Hood also spoke of the savagery of Canzaters crime and how an innocent like Strange, then 18 and a recent Dreher High School graduate, should be able to live in Columbia without being ambushed by a band of eight youths who would beat him and leave him for dead.
A recent high school graduate should be able to walk home at night in downtown Columbia, the capital city of this great state of ours, without fear of being beat up by a mob of people, Hood said.
Canzater has been in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center for two years, and Hood gave him credit for time served. That means that Canzater will actually have to serve about five to six years, depending on how he behaves. Hood could have given him 20 years.
Canzater will likely be confined in the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice until he turns 17, at which time he could be transferred to the adult convict population in the S.C. Department of Corrections, a corrections spokesman said Monday.
Canzater was the seventh of eight defendants to plead guilty and be sentenced in connection with the attack. A court date for the last defendant has not yet been set.
The attack on Strange attracted national attention because of its vicious, unprovoked and random nature, as well as the age of the assailants. The youngest was 13. Most of the assailants had athletic backgrounds and far outweighed Strange, who was 140 pounds and 6 feet tall.
The eight individuals charged had been roaming the Five Points entertainment and shopping district just before midnight when they spotted Strange, who was jogging home to meet a parental curfew after visiting friends.
Evidence indicated they went to Five Points to find some wreck . . . a slang word that means they wanted to go out and beat somebody up, prosecutor Dolly Justice Garfield told Hood.
Law officers and doctors said that if passersby hadnt found Strange, who was lying unconscious in a gutter, and called 911, he might have died, Garfield told Hood. Strange was beaten so badly his parents didnt recognize him when they saw him at the hospital later that night, she said.
Evidence in the case indicated that Tyheem Henrey, at 19 the oldest of the assailants, led a charge across Blossom Street to jump on Strange and beat him. Henry was followed by another youth and then by Canzater, Garfield said.
Another youth also charged across the street to join in the beating, and four youths stayed on the other side of the street.
The attack left the Strange family with some $100,000 in medical bills for a concussion and brain surgeries.
Strange also suffers continuing dental and sinus problems, as well as having to deal with emotional and psychological issues stemming from fear of being attacked again, his mother, Vicki Strange, said in an interview Monday.
Canzaters mother, Cynthia Hampton, and his lawyer, Breeden, portrayed Canzater as basically a good young man who suffered from not having a male role model in his life. He is talented at football, baseball and wrestling and though slow in English and math can be a good student if given a chance, they said.
Hes a good kid; he really is, Hampton told Hood. For some reason he got on the wrong track.
Hampton also turned and apologized to Carter Stranges parents, Vicki and John. I am so sorry, she said.
When Vicki Strange spoke to the court, she said, As much as I want to have compassion, Canzater must be held accountable.
There has to be accountability. Everybody has boundaries. When we drive a car, we have laws we have to live by and when you go past those boundaries, theres got to be accountability.
Strange said Canzater and the others who crossed the street to beat her son made a deliberate choice. They are not guilty by association. They are guilty because of their actions that night actions that almost cost my son his life.
Addressing Canzater, she told him he has the power to turn his life around. Youre going to be in my prayers, she said.
But, son, you need to be held accountable.
Since her sons beating, Vicki Strange said, she has watched him grow increasingly isolated from his family as he wrestles with his problems. He was not in court Monday because hes trying to fight his way back emotionally, she said.
The attack underscored the importance of the more than 200 surveillance cameras in Five Points. Video from the cameras, which clearly showed the suspects roaming Five Points and then targeting Strange, was pivotal in getting the arrests and convictions.
The attack also caused City Council to enact a curfew for juveniles in the Five Points area at night.