Two sentenced to prison for roles in robbery ring that targeted pizza deliverymen, cabdrivers - The Buffalo News
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Two sentenced to prison for roles in robbery ring that targeted pizza deliverymen, cabdrivers

Two young men were sentenced Wednesday to prison for their roles in a robbery ring that targeted pizza deliverymen and cabdrivers, including a cabdriver who was killed by two other members of the ring.

Dequan Bailey, 18, of Hewitt Avenue, got 10 years for robbing two fast-food deliverymen and two cabdrivers on the East Side. He had pleaded guilty to five counts of second-degree robbery and one count of first-degree robbery.

Rokym Knox, 20, of Emslie Street, got five years for one of the cabby holdups. He had pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree robbery.

State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia denied a request by Bailey’s attorney, Nicholas W. Hicks, to give youthful-offender status to his client, who was 17 at the time of the crimes.

The judge noted that a gun was involved in most of the holdups and that after Bailey was arrested in the first three robberies and released on bail 45 days later, he committed one more shortly after posting bail.

Assistant District Attorney Paul C. Parisi opposed the motion for youthful-offender status, which would have sealed Bailey’s criminal record if it had been granted.

He said the status was reserved for young people who make mistakes or commit youthful indiscretions.

“It’s not meant for people who keep committing the same crime” in an escalating pattern of violence, he said, noting that while a gun was not involved in the first holdup, a weapon was displayed in the later crimes.

Before sentencing Bailey and Knox, the judge told them that he was sentencing them for only the holdups in which they were involved, not the fatal holdup of taxi driver Mazen M. Abdallah, 55, in which they had no role.

Two of their co-defendants, Sean Austin and Maurice Howie, were convicted by a jury in February in the robberies of Abdallah and another cabby. Austin also was convicted in the four earlier robberies.

In addition, both Austin, 17, of Emslie Street, and Howie, 18, of Hamburg Street, a former star quarterback at South Park High School, were convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Abdallah, an Airport Taxi Service driver who was found March 6, 2013, in a pool of blood in his cab’s back seat.

They had been scheduled to be sentenced Thursday by Buscaglia, but the sentencings are expected to be adjourned.

The judge sentenced Knox first. After he had imposed the five-year prison sentence, about 10 young people in the audience started yelling Knox’s nickname, Rocky, and the word “freedom” on their way out of the courtroom.

Before sentencing Bailey, the judge warned those remaining in the courtroom that if there were a similar outburst, he had told court officers to take anyone involved into custody for possible contempt charges.

He also said the first outburst would in no way affect the sentence he would give Bailey.

There was no outburst after the judge imposed the 10-year prison term on Bailey.

Bailey and Knox had faced a separate trial on the four earlier holdups but pleaded guilty.

Bailey admitted that on Dec. 2, 2012, he and Austin robbed a pizza deliveryman and later that day held up a Buffalo cabdriver at gunpoint. Both holdups occurred on Emslie.

Bailey also admitted that the next day, he and Knox, along with Austin and Devante Wells, robbed another Buffalo cabby at gunpoint at Seymour and Bond streets, and Bailey admitted helping Austin in the gunpoint holdup of a deliveryman for a Chinese restaurant Feb. 1, 2013, on North Division Street, shortly after Bailey had been released on bail.

Knox admitted participating in the Dec. 2, 2012, taxi driver holdup. The cabby in that holdup was in court for Wednesday’s sentencings but did not speak.

Wells, 18, of Bickford Avenue, pleaded guilty last summer to second-degree robbery and will be sentenced by Buscaglia on July 1.


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