By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — The teenaged driver of a vehicle used in the armed robbery of the I-94 Mart in the Town of Elk Mound has been sentenced to six years of probation and 90 days in jail.
Brandon Hurlburt, 18, of Cadott, along with his attorney Harry Hertel, appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court for a sentencing hearing February 8.
Half of Judge Rod Smeltzer’s courtroom also was filled with Hurlburt’s family members: parents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Hurlburt, as the driver of the vehicle used in the armed robbery in November of 2011, was charged as a party to a crime and pleaded guilty in Dunn County last November to one Class C felony of armed robbery, which carries a penalty of up to a $100,000 fine and/or up to 40 years in prison.
Two others also were charged with armed robbery in connection with the same incident: Christopher L. Bollom, 20, of Eau Claire, and Jordan R. Dickinsen, 21, also of Eau Claire.
Another co-defendant in the case (Dickinsen) has been sentenced to five years in prison, noted Dunn County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Maki.
Bollom was scheduled to go on trial January 24 and 25 in Dunn County, but during a court hearing January 18, Maki reported to Judge Smeltzer that the Bollom case in Dunn County was being consolidated with a case in Chippewa County.
A plea hearing for Bollom is scheduled in Chippewa County on February 20.
Hurlburt had committed another armed robbery in Chippewa and was on a “crime spree,” Maki told the court.
For the Chippewa County robbery, Hurlburt has been sentenced to five years of initial confinement and eight years of probation, which has been imposed and stayed, and has been placed on six years of probation and one year in jail, he said.
Hurlburt, who was 17 at the time of the armed robbery, has been given Huber privileges in Chippewa County to attend school and to go to work, Maki said.
The armed robbery had an impact on the clerk at the I-94 Mart who was so upset and disturbed by the incident that she has left her job, he said.
Maki said he was recommending six years of probation concurrent with the Chippewa County probation and one year in jail.
Hurlburt’s father, Steve, had prepared a statement for the sentencing hearing, and Hertel was given permission to read the statement.
In his statement, Hurlburt’s father said his son always had a “strange way of looking at things” since he was a small boy and that family members used to joke that Brandon “lives in a yellow submarine,” Hertel read.
Over the years, Hurlburt said that he and his wife had paid for counseling for Brandon and had paid for psychiatric evaluations.
“I still have no idea what drove Brandon to act as he did,” Hurlburt’s father wrote.
On the other hand, Hurlburt’s father said he believed that his son would put the bad behavior behind him and that he would “use his mistakes to do good.”
Hurlburt’s father noted that his son had cooperated with the investigation of the armed robbery.
After finishing the statement, Hertel went on to say that Hurlburt had wanted to address the convenience store clerk to apologize but saw that she was not in court for the sentencing hearing.
Hurlburt has been working up to 48 hours per week at Alliance Plastics in Chippewa Falls, Hertel said.
Hertel said he had asked Hurlburt how he felt about working, and that Hurlburt said it “felt good” to be earning money rather than getting “easy money” by hurting people.
Hertel noted the support of Hurlburt’s extended family in the courtroom and also suggested 50 hours of community service for each year that Hurlburt was placed on probation in Dunn County.
Hurlburt was 16 when he started using drugs, and now at 18, he has a felony record, Hertel noted.
Brandon Hurlburt took the opportunity to address Judge Smeltzer and said that even though he did not see the convenience store clerk in court, “let her know I am sorry it happened.”
Hurlburt said at the time, he did not think there was any way for him to stop the crime but thinks now he could have done something.
Because of his felony record, Hurlburt said he was afraid people would think he has a “crappy family” but that he really has a good network of supportive family members who always get together on holidays and for other occasions.
Hurlburt noted that he is taking as much overtime as he can get at his job and that he is doing his schoolwork as well and currently has a 3.6 grade point average.
On track to graduate with his high school class, Hurlburt said he was behind in his school work a year ago and that he plans to go to college and major in computer programming.
Hurlburt is scheduled to be released from the Chippewa County jail on June 6.
Because of the seriousness of the crime, Judge Smeltzer noted that he had the ability to impose a prison sentence of up to 40 years.
The community expects a punitive component for a crime like this, he said.
Judge Smeltzer said he thought Hurlburt had the potential to be rehabilitated, but that as a judge, he also needed to hold Hurlburt responsible for his criminal behavior in Dunn County.
Judge Smeltzer sentenced Hurlburt to six years of probation concurrent with the probation in Chippewa County and added 90 more days in jail consecutive to the Chippewa County sentence.
Judge Smeltzer also ordered Hurlburt to perform 75 hours of community service during his first two years of probation and ordered him to pay $580 restitution and $268 in court costs.
Hertel asked if Hurlburt could be granted Huber privileges to attend his high school graduation, and Judge Smeltzer granted Huber privileges for Hurlburt’s graduation.
The 90 days in jail for his crime in Dunn County will begin June 7, the day after Hurlburt has completed his Chippewa County sentence.