An Orangeburg County man who shot and wounded a DEA agent during a surprise pre-dawn drug raid outside his home last fall was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison.
Just before U.S. Judge Michelle Childs passed sentence on Joel Robinson, 33, the the Drug Enforcement Administration agent Robinson shot told the judge there was no excuse for Robinson’s shooting him and that he almost lost his life.
“Two inches higher, it would have been a head shot. Two inches lower, it could have gone under my (bulletproof) vest,” said Agent Barry Wilson, a 17-year law enforcement veteran.
Some nine months after Robinson shot him in the arm, breaking his elbow and forearm, Wilson has racked up $82,158 in medical bills, has nerve damage and might need another operation. The total is apparently covered by government medical and disability insurance, but Robinson has been ordered to repay that amount to the insurer as restitution.
Robinson had no reason to shoot at the agents, who were wearing reflective vests marked police and yelling “Police!” when he dashed naked out the back door of his house shooting a .45-caliber handgun, Wilson said.
“Mr. Robinson didn’t ask who we were,” Wilson said. “He simply launched an assault.”
If Robinson truly believed he was the subject of a home invasion, he should have called 911, Wilson said.
One of Robinson’s lawyer, Jim Griffin, said his client had been using marijuana just before the shooting and his mind, “may very well have been clouded.”
Another of Robinson’s lawyer, Dick Harpootlian, said Robinson is not only sorry for shooting the agent but grateful the law officers surrounding his house didn’t gun him down after he shot Wilson. Only after shooting Wilson did Robinson realize the people outside his house were law officers and put his gun down, Harpootlian said.
“They had a perfect right to shoot him and they didn’t do that,” Harpootlian said. The lawyer termed the incident regrettable but excusable. “It was dark. He was scared. He has never shot anyone in his life.”
Robinson could have gotten 30 years to life if a jury had found him guilty. But in a deal, federal prosecutors agreed to drop most charges against Robinson, including manufacturing and distributing illegal drugs, if he would plead guilty to shooting Wilson. At Monday’s hearing, a prosecutor told the judge that evidence against Robinson now indicates he played “a limited role” in any drug scheme, just using his property to store illegal chemicals.
No drugs were found in Robinson’s house.
The formal charge to which Robinson pleaded guilty to is assaulting a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon while the officer is in the performance of his duties. Although Robinson contended he didn’t know Wilson was a law officer, it is still a crime to shoot a federal law officer who is performing his official duties.