The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 16, 2013

UPDATE: Woodroof sentences Athens man to life in prison

By Jean Cole
jean@athensnews-courier.com

— A jury had been selected Wednesday at the Limestone County Courthouse in Athens and was ready to hear the case of a man accused of robbing a woman at a local apartment complex in 2011.

Prosecutors had their evidence and exhibits ready.

The victim — a nurse at Athens-Limestone Hospital and full-time student — was seated at the prosecution’s table in the third-floor courtroom and was ready to testify.

The accused, Deangelo Antwan Coffman, 26, of Athens — a man with four prior felony convictions for burglary and robbery — was sitting at the defense table when, suddenly, he changed his mind. He decided to plead guilty to the first-degree robbery charge.

Due to four prior felony convictions, Circuit Judge James Woodroof Jr. gave him life in prison with the possibility of parole.

District Attorney Brian Jones could not say why the accused decided to plead guilty at the last minute.

“The victim was sitting there with me and the jury was sitting right there and he was looking at life with the possibility of parole or life without the possibility of parole, due to his priors,” he said.

Coffman had four prior convictions for robbery and burglary in 2006 and 2010, which made him a habitual offender under the law, the district attorney said.

“The victim and I are both pleased with the outcome of this case,” Jones said. “ I want to

thank the Athens Police Department for their hard work in bringing Coffman to

justice.”

The crime

The robbery occurred the night of Nov. 28, 2011. The victim told Athens Police she had parked her car at the apartment complex when a black male approached and knocked on her car window. The suspect demanded money and made threats to the victim when she opened her car door, police said. The suspect also appeared to have a black cylinder with a nozzle in his hand, which prosecutors later surmised was pepper spray, Jones said.

Police said the victim was able to get away and started running and screaming.

Based on the victim’s description, police believed they knew the suspect. They arranged a lineup and the victim identified Coffman. Police arrested him in Decatur two days later and charged him with first-degree robbery.