Two ‘Cash Feenz’ members resentenced
Two co-defendants in the 2006 “Cash Feenz” murders have been resentenced to life in prison, with one small but significant revision – an opportunity for early release.
Circuit Judge Bruce Kyle ruled Monday that Roderick Antwon Washington, 25, and Ashley M. Toye, 26, would serve life sentences in connection to the murders of Alexis Sosa, 18, and his nephew, Jeffrey Sosa, 14. Both had sought new sentences following a recent Florida Supreme Court ruling.
Washington had originally been sentenced to four consecutive life sentences, plus 30 years in prison, for two counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Toye had been sentenced to life without parole for two counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and one count of tampering fabricating physical evidence.
“The judge left the sentence the same, except gave her hope that in the future she could petition the court for early release,” Attorney Stuart Pepper, who represented Toye, said on Tuesday.
After 25 years, both she and Washington can ask for early release.
“The minimum she could spend (incarcerated) is 25 years,” Pepper said.
To comply with the U.S. Supreme Court, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in March that juveniles cannot be sent to prison for life if they have not killed someone, according to the Associated Press. It also ruled that mandatory life-without-parole sentences are unconstitutional for juvenile murderers.
Washington was 16 and Toye was 17 at the time of the Sosa murders.
Those who received life sentences as juveniles have two years to seek new sentences.
The AP reported that the Florida ruling could affect about 200 people.
Pepper noted that he and Toye had hoped for a lighter sentence on Monday, like 30 or 25 years.
“She’s very disappointed, but at least she has a hope of being released,” he said.
Assistant State Attorney Cynthia Ross handled the re-sentencing hearings.
“I think the State Attorney’s Office looks at the crime that was committed with the two victims,” she said. “During both hearings, I articulated the state’s concerns and thoughts on these cases.”
Alexis and Jeffrey Sosa were hog-tied, beaten and tortured at a Cape Coral duplex during a birthday party in October 2006. Driven to an industrial park, they were fatally shot and Alexis’ body was put in the trunk of a vehicle and set on fire. Authorities found Jeffrey’s body lying near the burned vehicle.
Calling them “horrific” murders, Ross noted that the victims were terrorized and tortured over an extended period of time. Court transcripts showed they screamed and begged for mercy, to no avail.
“The court, in finding a life sentence, had ample grounds to make that decision,” she said.
“We certainly support the court’s decision,” Ross said.
Pepper noted that Kyle was not the original judge in Toye’s case.
“I disagree with his conclusions about her role in what occurred that evening,” he said. “He grouped Ashley in with the more vicious members who committed the crimes – she did one thing.”
Pepper acknowledged that Toye and others carved initials in the victims’ backs, which she was sentenced to 15 years for. After that act, his client did nothing else to the victims.
“She was simply there,” he said. “Just by being there, she’s being collectively punished.”
Pepper said Toye is not a killer.
“She is not this malicious evil monster,” he said. “She couldn’t stop it. She couldn’t run away and call the police – she was a girl who was caught up in a nightmare that she couldn’t get out of.”
Ten people, ages 16 to 20, were charged in connection to the murders.
The co-defendants all had ties to a local rap group and called themselves the Cash Feenz.
Kemar Manley Johnston was convicted and sentenced to four consecutive life sentences, plus 30 years in prison. He was 20 at the time of the murder, so he is not eligible for a re-sentencing hearing.
Kenneth Junior Lopez was sentenced to 50 years in prison in a plea deal with the state.
Melissa Rivera, Iriana Santos, Alexis Fernandez, Cody Roux and Michael Balint pleaded guilty to lesser crimes and received prison sentences that varied between 14 years and 26 years in exchange for their testimony. Paul Nunes pleaded guilty in a deal with the state to a reduced sentence of 40 years.
Toye and Washington have 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision from Monday.
“She most likely will appeal because this is a new area of the law,” Pepper said. “The appeals courts have not even ruled on these types of hearings.”
According to the Equal Justice Initiative, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children 17 or younger convicted of homicide are unconstitutional.
It struck down statutes in 29 states that provide for mandatory life-without-parole sentences.
Attorney Pauline Franklin represented Washington in his re-sentencing hearing.
She did not return messages on Tuesday seeking comment on the outcome.