Are these prison sentences fair?

Eight years for gun possession. 20 to life for a home break-in.

These are decisions handed down by two judges today in separate cases against two unlucky defendants from Yonkers.

dante thatcherThe gun case first. In January, a jury convicted a 20-year-old Dante Thatcher of second-degree and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Authorities say he was acting suspiciously one night on Riverdale Avenue back in 2008, and when the cops approached him, he threw a loaded gun to the ground and ran off.  Police caught him two weeks later.

Thatcher has no felony convictions as an adult. And yet acting state Supreme Court Justice William A. Wetzel is sending him upstate for eight years. I’ve seen drunk drivers who have killed people in Westchester not get this kind of prison time. Granted, under the law, second-degree gun possession requires a 3 1/2 year sentence no matter what, and as a “C” felony, carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. So it’s not as bad as it could have been. But still.

The other case involves a man who robbed a little old lady in her home on McLean Avenue in Yonkers last year. He went to trial and was convicted of third-degree robbery, burglary and having stolen property. showimg.aspThe defendant, Robert E. Whittle, has been in and out of prison for the past 30 years on convictions for robbery, burglary and stolen property and drug possession.

Westchester prosecutors wanted him sentenced as a persistent violent felon, and today county Judge Barbara Zambelli granted their wish. Whittle, 48, will now be in prison for at least another 20 years and could die there. I’ve seen killers get 10 to 15 years on plea bargains. He’s a crook and he’s getting 20.

And people wonder why so many cases are pleaded out.

Rebecca Baker

Rebecca Baker joined The Journal News in March 2004. She covers Eastchester, Bronxville and Tuckahoe, and was previously the state and county courts reporter in Westchester County. In prior jobs, she covered the Town of Greenburgh and Rockland County government and politics. Before coming to The Journal News, she was a municipal reporter for newspapers in New Haven, Conn. and Warren, Ohio.