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A Newport News man involved in a James City County home invasion and robbery will serve nearly six years in jail for his part in the crimes.
Giovaunie James Banton, who appeared in Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse on Wednesday, was convicted of malicious wounding, larceny of a firearm and robbery at his trial last November. He was one of five co-defendants originally charged in relation to the incident.
Banton along with Cameron and Jaleshia Whitlock and two juveniles who will not be named due to their age were all traveling together on the afternoon of Nov. 8, 2014 and made a stop at a home on the 100 block of King William Drive.
One of the residents, a 58-year-old woman, took the stand during Banton’s trial in November to testify she was in her home that afternoon when a group of four people – one of whom knew her son – entered her home, beat her and stole two firearms that were kept in the house.
She said her son let in an acquaintance, one of the juvenile suspects, around 12:30 p.m. Nov. 8.
After the juvenile entered the house, Cameron Whitlock briefly waited outside and then came to the door to ask if he could use the bathroom.
The woman’s son let Cameron Whitlock and two others – Banton and another juvenile – into the house, at which time the victim testified she became uncomfortable with so many unfamiliar people in the house and asked them to leave.
The juvenile acquaintance began saying to the victim that her son owed him money, and Banton and the juvenile acquaintance went upstairs to the woman’s bedroom to begin searching for jewels and valuables, the victim said.
The victim testified she confronted Banton in the bedroom, who then put her in a headlock and began punching her repeatedly, breaking her jaw.
Finally, the four individuals took two guns from the home and got in a car driven by Jaleshia Whitlock and left the scene.
When Banton reappeared before the court Wednesday, his defense attorney Leslie Siman-Tov called several character witnesses to the stand who testified Banton has a generally peaceful and respectful disposition.
A neighbor who mentored Banton throughout his teenage years said the allegations against Banton were completely out of character for him and he believed it was a case of the defendant being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“If [Banton] saw me struggling with anything, he would come over and help,” the neighbor testified. “He was a great asset to our family when I was in recovery [from a recent surgery].”
Banton’s childhood babysitter, his grandmother and his father also took the stand and reiterated they had never seen him aggressive, violent or disrespectful.
In their closing statements, Siman-Tov and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Josh DeFord focused on Banton’s criminal and academic records, which painted a different picture of the defendant.
While Siman-Tov highlighted Banton’s lack of any juvenile criminal record, DeFord drew attention to the defendant’s disciplinary record with Newport News Public Schools, which indicates numerous infractions including skipping class, using profanity and hitting a teacher.
Judge Michael McGinty said he was persuaded by Banton’s in-school disciplinary record that this was more than just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and adhered to the Commonwealth’s recommendation that Banton receive a sentence around the mid-point of the guidelines,
Banton was sentenced to 10 years with six years suspended on the malicious wounding charge, five years with all time suspended on the larceny charge and 10 years with eight years and two months suspended on the robbery charge. He will serve five years and 10 months total.
Banton will also share responsibility with his co-defendants for paying the victim $1,369.96 in restitution.