OGDEN — Police said a boy took part in an armed robbery. He pleaded guilty. And now he’s in prison and will be there for some time.
However, the father of the 16-year-old boy now says his son’s sentence is far too severe.
Marc Van Huizen, father of Cooper Van Huizen, said, “23 hours in a cell — that’s going to destroy him.”
The teenage Van Huizen was sentenced this week by 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones to two, 1-to-15 year prison terms after he pleaded guilty to two reduced charges of second-degree felony robbery.
His father recommended he take the plea deal, believing it would result in a 180-day jail sentence where his son would be able to attend school during the day. Van Huizen said Cooper would have had to complete probation as well, but successful completion would have resulted in the charges being reduced to class A misdemeanors on his record.
“The judge acted very upset and he disallowed the plea agreement,” Van Huizen said.
Van Huizen recalled his son said “No, please” as the bailiffs were handcuffing him.
“He was crying,” he said. “He’s never been grounded.”
Van Huizen was arrested last fall and was accused of being part of a group that committed an armed robbery on Nov. 4 at a Roy home located near 5880 S. 2600 West.
Court documents said Cooper and four others — including three 18-year-olds — entered the home and held two people inside at gunpoint in the basement while they demanded money and drugs.
Police said they left with $10, a wallet, a cellphone and a bag of marijuana.
He himself now has complete remorse and regret, forever being a part of that situation and he wishes he could take that day back.
–Marc Van Huizen, father
“There was insufficient evidence to show that my son had any weapon of any kind,” Van Huizen said.
Van Huizen said while others held “broken” guns, his son was never armed, was never an instigator and was simply there because he ended up hanging out with the wrong group of friends.
“He himself now has complete remorse and regret, forever being a part of that situation and he wishes he could take that day back,” Cooper’s father said.
Attempts to locate the victims in the case were unsuccessful Friday. They had moved from the Roy home and had gone out of state, according to neighbors.
Knowing what his son faces now, Van Huizen said he never would have told Cooper to sign the plea deal.
Van Huizen said he had been told by different people his son would likely spend 18 months to five years in prison, but nothing is a guarantee.
Defense attorney and former longtime Salt Lake County prosecutor Kent Morgan — who is not connected to the case — said judges are always looking at balance and what the public perception is going to be.
Morgan said judges weigh aggravating circumstances like weapons and being complicit with others with mitigating circumstances like Van Huizen’s age and the fact this was his first offense.
“The public would be uncomfortable with this person not being closely supervised,” he said of someone facing similar charges to Cooper Van Huizen.
Van Huizen acknowledges his son did something “very bad,” but said he intends to appeal the sentence with the help of a public defender.
“The mistake that he made — the first ever he’s made in his life — was a big one,” Van Huizen said.