By Alana Bleimann
SACRAMENTO – Defendant Maleak Japree Cole, facing a long stint in prison for robbery, fabricated his testimony in an effort to avoid that fate, said a Sacramento Superior Court judge here Friday.
The judge ultimately rejected Cole’s story and sent him to prison for 12 years for the armed robbery of an elderly couple in Sacramento nearly three years ago.
In October of 2017, an elderly couple was making their way up the front porch of their home when they were approached at gunpoint by two men. The female victim’s purse was stolen along with her identification and $800 cash.
The couple immediately tracked the men on Apple’s Find My iPhone application and were able to have police pursue them before they reached their own home.
Cole’s defense attorney, Robert J. Saria, asked the court to release his client on probation. Saria claimed Cole is not the person he was three years ago and that this one criminal incident does not define his personality or morals.
He noted that Cole has a strong social support system (including five children), and is loved by many, particularly his teenage daughter. He has a stable job as an in-home caretaker and has no previous criminal history other than a small juvenile offense.
“This is a person who…. has all the factors that would show he is a suitable candidate for probation,” Saria concluded.
Cole began his testimony by begging for mercy and admitting that he is full of remorse, claiming he never intended harm to anyone.
Cole recounted the evening, beginning in the car of Marquiese Cheatham, Cole’s co-defendant. Both men met up to discuss the ways in which they could “make extra cash,” but it never crossed Cole’s mind that they would be robbing anyone. While in the car, Cheatham presented two guns to Cole and then proceeded to toss them under the front seat.
The car stopped outside the victims’ home. Cheatham told Cole to “wait here.” He complied but eventually left the car when he heard screaming coming from the front porch. He assumed they were the cries of his co-defendant and thus reached for a gun on his way out the car door.
As Cole approached the porch, he found that the screams were not those of his co-defendant, but rather those one of the victims. At this moment, Cole testified, Cheatham instructed him to take the female’s purse. They then immediately fled the scene.
Prosecutor Moore questioned Cole on why he even robbed the couple in the first place if this was never his intention. He also questioned the fact that Cole “never pointed the gun at the victims” when video surveillance footage shows otherwise.
Moore continued to make it clear that Cole was fabricating his testimony as well as spinning all the facts to his advantage in order to not take full responsibility.
No witnesses were called to testify. Statements from the victims’ daughter were presented next.
In both an email and a handwritten letter, the victims’ family recounts the weeks and months after the crime. They write how their mother’s “health and interest in hobbies are declining,” causing them to lose sleep.
The victims also continue to experience anxiety attacks and heightened paranoia around strangers that come too close, ultimately “changing their lives drastically.”
Judge Laurel D. White acknowledged Cole’s responsibility as a father, his strong social support system, and that the lengthy sentence will be harmful to his children.
On the other hand, she shamed Cole for using potentially deadly weapons on an innocent elderly couple and fabricating his story when the video footage tells a completely different story. She said that she “had hoped he would have thought about [his family]” before committing the crime.
Judge White called it an “utterly shameful” crime, and sentenced Cole to 12 years in prison and three years on parole after his sentence is complete.
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