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Gordonsville man to serve 30 years for 2020 armed robbery spree

A Gordonsville man will spend 30 years in prison for a string of armed robberies in Central Virginia during the summer of 2020.

Dominique Dejone Thurston, 23, pleaded guilty last year in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia to seven counts of Hobbs Act robbery and two counts of brandishing a firearm.

The charges stem from a robbery spree Thurston committed beginning in June 2020 and ending in September of that same year. Eight times Thurston targeted convenience stores across the Central Virginia region, threatening to kill cashiers at each location.

“This speaks to just how one person can undermine the safety that a community feels, the sense of security that we all can – and should – have,” U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh said after the hearing Friday. “[It speaks to] how sometimes, when something might feel like a larger trend, just a few people may be behind it and just how important it is that we target and focus our attention, our efforts and our resources on those individuals.”

Though both the defense and prosecution characterized Thurston’s actions as violent and angry, he sat meekly beside his defense attorney Friday as the government outlined its case against him.

Various videos were shown, depicting Thurston entering convenience stores and pretending to want to buy a small, incidental item, usually a pack of gum or other product found near the register. After the clerks would open the registers to make change, Thurston would pull out a firearm, threaten the clerks and demand all the money in the register before fleeing.

According to Ron Huber, an assistant U.S. Attorney, the video evidence presented a strong case for while Thurston should be sentenced on the high end of the guidelines, 33 years.

“The crime spree took place over three months, meaning the defendant had time to consider his actions and stop,” Huber said. “Unfortunately, the defendant’s response was not to reflect on his actions but to keep becoming brazen and violent.”

Andrea Harris, an assistant federal public defender representing Thurston, argued that by accepting a plea agreement her client had taken responsibility for his actions. Additionally, she argued that by ultimately deciding to forego a trial Thurston had avoided potentially re-traumatizing his victims.

“We believe the low-end of the guidelines – [27 years] – is an appropriate and significant sentence,” she said. “Additionally, the minimum sentence of 27 years is four years longer than Mr. Thurston has been alive.”

U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon took other factors into account when considering the sentence, including Thurston’s young age and the fact that at the time of the robberies he was on probation for prior state convictions for rape, forcible sodomy and intent to defile.

Moon imposed a sentence of 360 months, totaling 30 years, and restitution to the victims totaling $2,630.54.

Following the sentencing, various representatives from local and federal law enforcement agencies spoke about the importance of the conviction, which they viewed as sending a strong message against violent crime in Central Virginia.

Kavanaugh, who assumed his position in October, said that much of the nation has seen a rise in violent crime in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to use federal resources to combat this increase, he said, pledging his support to local efforts.

Kavanaugh said that the lengthy sentence was sought to protect the community and send a message.

“When I talk about building community and earning legitimacy and trust, I mean by focusing our federal resources on cases where the safety of the community has been undermined, even in some small measure,” he said. “We can help look to restore that trust and that feeling of safety, understanding just how fragile it can be.”


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