Two Centre County robbers sentenced to state prison time

Two local men will spend the next several years behind bars for beating up a high school student and robbing him of money so they could buy beer for a party.

Zachariah Johnson, 24, of Boalsburg, and 25-year-old Joseph Jenkins, of Bellefonte, were handed state prison sentences on Tuesday for that early morning July 2011 robbery and assault near Parkway Plaza Apartments in State College. The two men were convicted on robbery, conspiracy, simple assault and other charges during a one-day trial in May.

Judge Pamela A. Ruest put away Johnson for the next 51/2 to 11 years. Jenkins’ sentence, 31/2 to seven years, was not as harsh because his criminal record isn’t as lengthy as Johnson’s.

State College police arrested the two after a high school student reported he was jumped by two men at a party. The high-schooler stepped outside, and he was followed by Johnson and Jenkins and cornered behind a trash bin. The men punched the teen and made off with $9, an ATM card and cigarettes.

Prosecutor Daniel McKenrick asked the judge to punish the men with stiffer sentences than they received.

McKenrick called Johnson “a danger to this community” who has been in and out of the criminal justice system, such as when he was arrested as a juvenile for bringing a weapon to school and as an adult, when he escaped from the county jail by not returning from work release. The prosecutor doubted Jenkins could be rehabilitated and said he never showed remorse for the robbery and assault.

In a tearful address to the judge, Jenkins’ mother, Patricia Hadden, begged for a lighter sentence. Jenkins was, by that time, in tears, too, and defense attorney Karen Muir even asked the judge to note in the record that her client was wiping tears away with tissues.

“I just don’t think that six years in a state penitentiary is going to fix him,” the mother said, referencing the prosecution’s proposed prison term. “It’s going to make him worse.”

Ruest said she took into consideration many factors when handing down their punishments.

“Any lesser sentence would diminish the seriousness of the crimes committed,” she said.