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Published: Friday, 4/24/2009

Youth given 6-year-term for role in fatal holdup

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Tony Bivens had choices to make the day he drove an armed friend around the city with intentions of finding a place to rob, the mother of a murdered convenience store worker said in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday.

But instead of making the tough decisions to not get involved or to call police, Cynthia Dugan said, Bivens participated in an incident that resulted in her son's death.

Bivens, 18, of 1024 Ranch Drive, was sentenced to six years in prison yesterday for his involvement in the Aug. 13 robbery of the convenience store that led to the shooting death of Matthew Dugan. He admitted to driving the getaway vehicle for the armed robbery of the BP convenience store at the corner of Dorr Street and Secor Road and was convicted last month of conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.

Ms. Dugan said Bivens, who was 17 at the time of the offense, had ample opportunities to make different decisions.

"Instead, while my hardworking son lay bleeding to death, Mr. Bivens and his friend divided up the cash, left, and went shopping," she said.

Bivens is the second of three men sentenced for their involvement in the incident.

Dymon Bolton, 18, was sentenced in December to four years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of obstructing justice. Authorities said that although he was not aware of the plot to rob the gas station and did not share in the stolen money, he was at the scene and lied to police during the subsequent investigation.

The final man charged in the incident will go to trial Sept. 21. Anthony Belton, 22, of 934 Cuthbert Rd., is charged with one count of aggravated murder and two counts of aggravated robbery.

He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Attorney Alan Konop said he saw "serious, heartfelt" remorse from Bivens since his first encounter with him in juvenile court. Bivens was certified to stand trial as an adult in October. "He was misguided. It was a foolish effort to help a friend, and it resulted in a tragedy," Mr. Konop said.

He said Bivens has cooperated with police and will continue to do so, including in the prosecution of Mr. Belton if needed.

Assistant County Prosecutor Rob Miller noted after the hearing that the charge filed against Bivens accurately reflected his involvement in the crime. Dean Mandros, chief of the criminal division of the prosecutor's office, told Judge Charles Doneghy that Bivens knew that his acquaintance intended to commit a robbery and that he was armed with a gun.

Prior to his sentence, Bivens apologized to Mr. Dugan's family, saying that he did not intend "anything like that to ever happen to anyone."

Judge Doneghy encouraged Bivens to take part in prison programs while incarcerated and said he believes that everyone is capable of rehabilitation. But he added that a signal must be sent to others that preying on people will not be tolerated.

"If enough people said, 'No, I'm not going to do that,' then the person who had the most evil heart, that person who had mustered the strength because they had a weapon, would be standing alone and perhaps a life would have been saved," he said.

Mr. Mandros said after the hearing that he agreed with the judge's sentiment and hoped others would take note.

"Hopefully this does send a message to the community," he said.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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