MISSOULA — A young man beaten so severely with a baseball bat that he still walks with a cane pleaded Monday for mercy for Ture-Adon Thibodeaux, who attacked him 4 1/2 months ago during a convenience store robbery.
“I don’t hate you, I really don’t,” Patrick Bendig said at Thibodeaux’s sentencing in Missoula County District Court. “... I forgive you for what you did.”
Bendig said he agreed with public defender Ed Sheehy that justice would be best served with a 20-year Department of Corrections sentence with all but five years suspended, along with a recommendation to a boot camp program.
But Judge Karen Townsend handed down two 20-year Montana State Prison sentences, with 10 suspended, on the counts of assault with a weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery. The sentences will run concurrently. Thibodeaux could have faced a total of 60 years on those charges.
“The court believes that as a matter of public safety, this sentence is what’s required,” said the judge, as Bendig rested his chin on his cane, shaking his head.
Thibodeaux can apply to the boot camp program from prison, she said.
Townsend also sentenced Thibodeaux, 19, to pay $800 in public defender fees, as well as $4,420 to Bendig for lost wages not covered by workers’ compensation, and for $2,293 in restitution to the owners of Jay’s Mart.
The latter fees are to be shared among all the defendants.
Thibodeaux was among five men charged in the Jan. 8 robbery at Jay’s Mart on 39th Street. Three hooded men entered the store and two hit the clerk with bats, according to charging documents in the case. Then they fled with the store’s cash register, using its contents to pay rent, according to the court documents.
Bendig said he still suffers post-traumatic stress. “I watch my shadow, I watch the windows ...,” he said. “I watch my back.”
Andrew Lloyd Badger, 25; Cruz Sebastian Bernardi, 21; and brothers Devon Kainalu Kamaka, 19, and Ikaika Kaleo Kamaka, 20, also were charged in the case. All have been released pending trial.
Badger played for the University of Montana football team in 2010 and 2011 and now plays for the Missoula Phoenix, of the Rocky Mountain Football League. The Kamakas played for the University of Montana-Western football team, but left the team in the middle of the last season.
Thibodeaux pleaded guilty in March, without a plea agreement.
Both Bendig and Townsend praised that action Monday. “I commend you for stepping up and taking responsibility right from the get-go,” the judge said.
But Bendig warned Thibodeaux that he’d better stay out of trouble for the rest of his life.
“If I ever see you do another crime, the courts will not be the ones you have to worry about,” he said.
After Monday’s hearing, Bendig sneered at Thibodeaux’s co-defendants for holding out for plea agreements.
Take Badger, said Bendig. “I’ve got no pity for him. … He’s not going to get the mercy I have because he’s got his plea agreement.”
He said he knew that Thibodeaux was a praying man, and that held sway with him. Indeed, Thibodeaux turned to face Bendig, saying, “I’ve been praying for you every night.”
“Just change your life, man,” Bendig responded. “That’s all I ask.”
Later, when asked how he could seek mercy for the man who nearly killed him, Bendig said that “Everybody asks, ‘What would Jesus do?’ Jesus would do what I did today.”