Seven men from across California were sentenced Wednesday for their roles in a home invasion robbery last year in Atascadero that a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge said was "a bad decision" and appeared out of character for most of the men.
One member of the group, a Bay Area man, was also sentenced for a separate felony related to his alleged solicitation of a SLO County Jail inmate to murder the robbery victims and their San Luis Obispo attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu.
Few details have been released about what motivated the robbery, and San Luis Obispo County Probation Department pre-sentencing reports for each of the defendants were not available Wednesday.
But the Atascadero Police Department previously announced that on the morning of Feb. 11, 2017, police responded to a house on the 8400 block of San Gregorio Road for a report of a robbery and saw two vehicles leaving the area.
The vehicles were stopped before they could reach Highway 101.
The agency said in a news release that the men targeted the home and identified themselves as law enforcement officers before holding three victims at gunpoint and taking property valued at more than $200,000.
No one was injured, and though police have not said what was stolen, statements made in court Wednesday indicate that marijuana and edible cannabis products were allegedly among the items.
After their arrest, each man faced several felony counts of burglary, robbery and assault, charges that carried sentencing enhancements for the use of a gun during the commission of a crime, though only one member of the group was accused of carrying a firearm.
But last month, the seven entered pleas as part of a mostly uniform plea agreement, unusual for a local multi-defendant case involving allegedly violent crimes and which Funke-Bilu called the result of "a perfect storm of cooperation" between the defendants and their attorneys, Deputy District Attorney Kristy Imel and the victims.
Under the terms of the agreement, the majority of the defendants — Carnell Bowden, 35, of San Bernardino; Tamone Thompson, 38, of Hayward; John Cichosz, 37, of Oakley; and Long Beach residents Treaveon Falls, 27, and Michael Bowden, 32 — pleaded no contest to two counts of home invasion robbery and two enhancements.
Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen sentenced the five men to a total of five years in state prison, with about 529 days of credit, and about $6,000 in predetermined restitution, with half of that stayed following completion of parole.
Their convictions will also count as the equivalent of two strikes under California's Three Strikes law.
Joseph Perry, 36, of Antioch, the only defendant with a serious criminal record, was sentenced to nine years and eight months in prison for the robbery charges as well as enhancements for personally carrying a firearm.
Antioch resident Daniel Gonzalez — who entered into the same plea agreement as everyone but Perry — also initially faced four counts of solicitation of murder and three counts of attempting to dissuade a witness for allegedly asking an inmate at San Luis Obispo County Jail to murder Funke-Bilu and his victim clients.
That inmate told his attorney, who in turn reported it to authorities, the DA's Office previously said. Funke-Bilu was representing the three as a victim’s rights attorney under California’s Marsy’s Law.
Gonzalez, 48, pleaded no contest last month to felony accessory after the fact, and the solicitation and dissuasion charges were dismissed.
Though Gonzalez was sentenced to 16 months for the latest charge, van Rooyen ordered that sentence be served concurrently with his five-year sentence for the robbery charges, meaning he'll likely serve no additional time.
During Wednesday's hearing, Funke-Bilu addressed van Rooyen on behalf of the victims and himself, saying they were grateful no one was hurt in the robbery but that they were glad the defendants' "lives will not be destroyed," either.
"It's a painful life lesson," Funke-Bilu said. "Even though they acted ruthlessly in some respects, they used great restraint in some respects."
He added that he personally "looked in Mr. Gonzalez's eyes" and that the two "made peace."
During the sentencing for Falls — the youngest of the group — defense attorney Paul Phillips made a statement to van Rooyen saying that his client had no serious criminal record and that he was asleep inside a car down the road during the robbery.
With members of Falls' family watching in court, Phillips said he wanted it stated for the record that many details about the robbery had not been established but that Falls was "the low man on the totem pole" and not a hardened criminal.
"It's this made-for-TV stuff. It was bodyguards and rappers and cannabis," Phillips said. "Mr. Falls is not the type of person we're ever going to be seeing (in court) again."
Before his ruling, van Rooyen noted that Falls appears to have a good support system in his family and wished him luck in completing the terms of his sentence.