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Hostage taker gets 12 years in prison

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published April 17, 2007, 10:38 a.m.)

"No one got hurt."

Walworth County Judge Michael Gibbs repeated that several times Friday in his sentencing of Robbie S. Dickerson, the Delavan man who took Deputy Cheryl Schmidt hostage for 20 minutes on June 21, 2001.

"The crime is a serious crime, no question about it," said Gibbs, who sentenced the 27-year-old Dickerson to 12 years in prison and 15 years probation. "Just because deputy Schmidt was wearing a uniform does not make her a protected special class of victim...

"I see the entire command staff of the sheriff's department is here.

No one got hurt. It's when people get hurt around here when you're supposed to be vindicated. That's when you get long stretches of prison."

Sheriff David Graves had little to say about Gibbs' decision.

"He's the judge. He makes the decisions," Graves said. "I don't think it's up to me to say (if it's appropriate). It's the judge's call."

Graves remains hopeful the 12 years behind bars will be enough of an "emotional event" to correct Dickerson's behavior.

Schmidt declined to comment.

Dickerson is sorry for fighting with Schmidt and taking her hostage at a home on North Walworth Road, defense attorney John Dade said.

"Robbie said justice was served, and he accepts his sentence," said Dade, who called the sentence appropriate.

Before he was sentenced, Dickerson turned to the sheriff's department staff sitting in the gallery.

"I have much respect for human life," he said. "Never did I want to hurt anybody. I apologize to you all."

Schmidt had responded to a report of a domestic dispute between Dickerson and his wife, who was not at the sentencing hearing.

Schmidt noticed Dickerson was armed with a knife and tried to get it from him. A struggle ensued and somehow Dickerson took Schmidt's .357-magnum revolver. He held it to her head as assisting officers arrived.

A shot was fired, and one of the arriving officers fired back, missing Dickerson before he took Schmidt inside the home.

"If one of the officers shot him while he was standing there ... I think that (shooting) would have been completely justified," District Attorney Phil Koss said.

Dickerson held Schmidt hostage about 20 minutes. He fired shots into the ceiling, narrowly missing people who lived in an upstairs apartment.

Schmidt escaped when Dickerson let his guard down to light a cigarette. Dickerson surrendered after about 20 more minutes.

Dickerson pleaded guilty to disarming an officer, taking a hostage, battery to an officer, reckless endangerment and endangering safety. He had faced more than 114 years in prison.

A Department of Corrections official recommended between 45 and 55 years in prison. Gibbs wouldn't go for it.

"Generally I don't make it a habit of criticizing the (pre-sentence investigation) writer, but I think their recommendation is beyond pale. I think it's crazy," Gibbs said.

"This was a scary, dangerous situation. No one got hurt," he added later. "I don't put someone in prison for 55 years because it was a scary, dangerous situation."

 

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