OFFBEAT: A long time anywhere

Keenan Bonner is sitting in an Erie County jail cell, facing 26 years in prison for his role in a violent home invasion in June 2007
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Keenan Bonner is sitting in an Erie County jail cell, facing 26 years in prison for his role in a violent home invasion in June 2007.

If Erie County Common Pleas Judge Roger Binette decides to give Bonner the maximum sentence, the 18-year-old could remain behind bars until he's 44.

That's a long time in jail. That's a long time anywhere.

Bonner, who turned 18 on Nov. 15, has a 2-year-old daughter. She could be 28 by the time her dad gets out of prison.

The trial had many oddities, starting with the case number: CR-2007-0666. If that's not a bad omen, I don't know what is.

Then there was Denise Demmitt. Demmitt was Bonner's attorney. She's a well-known Erie County defense attorney, who also apparently has a hard time getting to court on time. She arrived late two days of the trial and could face contempt-of-court charges from Binette.

Also, there is the fact that Alex Tucker, the victim in the case, is far from a saint, according to the Sandusky Municipal Court Web site. He picked up charges in October of having a weapon under disability, resisting arrest, inducing panic and obstructing. He was charged with complicity to attempted murder in 2007.

There was also the tale of Sandusky police and their role in the incident. When the Tuckers called police after the robbery during the early-morning hours of June 16, they had to wait 20 minutes for the cops to arrive. Why? Because Sandusky police officer Ken Gautshi's cruiser broke down, and he had to wait for a Perkins police officer to give him a ride to the Center Street home.

You can't make this stuff up.

Oh, and when police did arrive, they ended up arresting both Alex Tucker and his sister, Ashley, for disorderly conduct because they argued with police about how they were handling the investigation.

But back to the facts of the case.

Bonner, along with Justin Stowers and a yet-to-be-caught third man, entered a home in the 200 block of Center Street in the early morning hours of June 16, 2007, and robbed Alex Tucker of $1,400. Bonner, Stowers and the third man wore bandanas and carried "long guns." They held Alex, Ashley, her 3-year-old daughter and Ashley's boyfriend all at gunpoint while robbing Alex of the cash. They did so by ripping the jeans from Alex's body and taking all the contents.

Stowers took a plea deal in the case and was sentenced to three years in prison. He testified in the trial that while he participated in the robbery, Bonner did not.

Bonner maintained his innocence all the way back to his jail cell after the jury of 12 decided his fate, yelling that he didn't do it, and that his "life is over." He testified he was at his girlfriend's house at the time of the robbery.

Denise Demmitt based her defense on the fact there was no physical evidence placing her client at the scene of the crime. Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter based his case on the eyewitness accounts of the Tuckers, who both testified they were "100 percent" certain Bonner was one of the gunmen.

In the end, the eyewitnesses won out over the reasonable doubt with the jury.

There were some troubling aspects to the trial -- the first being that many of the witnesses who testified were in their 20s, had criminal records and had been or were still serving time in prison.

There was also the fact that Bonner was black, and the jury was white.

How can that happen?

Seconds after the jury came back with the guilty verdicts for aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery with gun specifications, a Bonner supporter shouted that the jury was not a jury of Bonner's peers. The man pointed out there were no blacks on the jury.

He made a good point.

After the trial Demmitt mentioned the racial make-up of the jury.

"This was clearly not a jury of his peers," she said.

So in the end Keenan Bonner's life as a thug came to an end just as he legally became a man.

The only question that remains is how many years of adulthood he will spend behind bars.

His family said it plans to appeal the verdict.