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After watching a video showing the assault and attempted robbery, a judge sentenced a man convicted of trying to steal a woman’s purse to seven years in prison Monday.
All but two months were suspended from the sentence for Benjamin Brock Lewis, who was under the influence of alcohol when he attempted to snatch the woman’s purse in the parking lot of the Monticello Marketplace Target and assaulted two men who tried to stop him.
Lewis’ attorney Gordon Klugh told the court it was uncharacteristic of Lewis to act in this manner — Lewis has no prior criminal record, was holding a steady job and was taking care of his wife and kids — but he had a problem with drugs and alcohol, and Klugh said Lewis hit “rock bottom” July 24 in the parking lot of Target.
Police said Lewis grabbed the purse slung over the 52-year-old woman’s shoulder as she was walking into the store and tried to pull the purse away from her, but the purse straps broke and its contents spilled on the ground.
He then ran to the nearby Dollar Tree, and a 25-year-old Target employee and a 25-year-old shopper chased Lewis down.
Lewis punched the shopper in the face and shoved the employee to the ground before both men were able to hold Lewis on the ground until police arrived and arrested Lewis.
Lewis received five years with all but one month suspended on the attempted robbery charge and 24 months on the two misdemeanor assault and battery charges, with all but one month suspended.
Since his release from jail on bond, Lewis has participated in counseling and is “making great efforts to turn his life around,” said Cathy Black, Williamsburg-James City County’s Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Judge Michael McGinty, who said he watched the surveillance video of the attempted robbery, called the incident a “harrowing experience.”
“I’m sure it was out of character, but it’s something the community should not have to go through,” he said.