By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Henry Huggins, the mugger convicted of assaulting and robbing two elderly men in Stuyvesant Town in 2011, was sentenced to 38 years to life in state prison last Friday.
Huggins, considered a career criminal, insisted at his sentencing that he was not the one responsible for the attacks and said that he objected to the way his trial had gone.
“My previous attorney didn’t argue any evidence on my behalf,” Huggins said. “I have been convicted based on my previous run-ins with the law. There is no direct evidence that proves I committed these crimes.”
Huggins had been convicted of every count listed in his indictment in November, 2013 at jury trial and found guilty of one count of burglary in first degree, one count of robbery in first degree, one count of robbery in second degree and assault in the second degree.
Judge Marcy Kahn sentenced him to 20 years to life for burglary in the first degree and 18 years to life for robbery in the second degree to be served consecutively, for a total of 38 years to life. He was also sentenced to 20 years to life for robbery in the first degree and 16-years-to-life for assault in the second degree, to be served concurrently with the rest of his sentence.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Pasinkoff disagreed with Huggins’s claim that he was innocent and had asked the judge for a sentence of 50 years to life.
“This was an absolutely horrible crime and this wasn’t the first time that he’s targeted the elderly,” Pasinkoff said. “One of the victims was so badly injured that he couldn’t perform regular activities to get through the day like getting dressed on his own. There should be no real possibility of (Huggins) returning to the world that he is terrorizing. Even though the evidence is overwhelming, he’s asking for leniency on the basis that he hasn’t committed the crime.”
Huggins’s defense attorney, Toni Messina, asked the judge to consider the context in which Huggins led his life of crime.
“He fell prey to addiction,” she argued. “If it weren’t for his time in the army from 1979 to 1985, he might not have fallen off a cliff into this drug use. He took college courses in prison and he’s been a good person. Albeit not to the victims, but he’s taken care of his family.”
At the sentencing, Huggins said that he had filed a motion to vacate judgment and set aside his sentencing because he was requesting DNA testing on a jacket. The jacket had already been entered into evidence for the trial but Huggins was requesting independent laboratory testing. The judge denied the motion at the sentencing because she didn’t see any reasonable proof of a more favorable verdict from the testing.
Huggins’ sister, Brenda, was also at the sentencing and presented a letter to the judge, asking for leniency. One of the two victims was planning to be present at the sentencing to make a statement but ended up being too ill to make an appearance.
Judge Kahn said that while she felt that the crimes Huggins committed were “horrific,” she didn’t think that the long sentence the District Attorney’s office was requesting was suitable.
“(The victims) were singled out because they were vulnerable,” she said. “I consider this one of the more cowardly crimes I’ve come across. The defendant has a 30-year criminal history and is a relatively unrepentant recidivist. He expresses his condolences for the victims but takes no responsibility for his actions. I’m mindful that he has had a hard life, including suffering from drug addiction, but this is a situation that he created, not that the system was bad and he was singled out.”
Before handing down the sentence, the judge added that she didn’t think 50 years to life was appropriate because she felt that such a long sentence should be reserved for “the most heinous crimes.”
The trial found that on November 3, 2011, Huggins followed a 77-year-old man into his Stuyvesant Town building at East 16th Street and First Avenue after the victim had gone to the bank and withdrawn $450. Huggins shoved the man from behind and grabbed the cash from the victim’s pocket, ripping the jacket, and fled.
As it was further proven at trial, a few weeks later on November 23, Huggins also attacked a 71-year-old man who was returning to his building on East 20th Street after withdrawing $400 from the bank. Huggins slipped into the building’s lobby behind the victim and threw the man to the ground, fracturing his arm in two places. He grabbed the victim’s wallet with the cash and fled.
Huggins was arrested a few days following the second incident after an officer with the Department of Homeless Services at the Bellevue Men’s Shelter recognized Huggins from surveillance photographs.