Zenyata stole a pair of Nike Air Max shoes from her first victim in a two-day crime spree. (File photo)
A man who drove around two towns in Bay of Plenty threatening people with a sawn-off shotgun to take their shoes, watches and phones was jailed for 14 years after recording his “third strikeâ€Offense.
Zenyata Thomson, 23, picked up a companion in Kawerau around 3 a.m. on October 15, 2019, telling him he wanted to accomplish some “missions”. The couple and a third companion drove into town for a while.
Thomson pulled out a sawed-off shotgun, held it at his companion’s head and told him to “take off his gear.” The companion presented Thomson with his Nike Air Max shoes, a gold watch and a jacket. Thomson dropped him off telling him that if he “sniffed” he would find him.
The next evening, Thomson and two miners approached a car parked in Kawerau. Thomson pointed the sawed-off shotgun at the two occupants of the car, then took control of the car and drove it through town with the occupants still in the car.
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He pointed the gun at the head of one of the occupants and took away their baseball caps and a jacket. Then he dropped them off and went to WhakatÄne, with the two minors.
In WhakatÄne, he stopped near a man walking on a street, pointed the gun at him and told him to unlock his iPhone and put it back on. The man did as he asked.
Thomson then crashed his car into another car, with two occupants inside, causing the car to spin and stop. He then approached the car with the gun and asked one of the occupants to give him his watch, which he did.
He then pulled the other occupant out of the car, punched and kicked him in the body, then forcibly took his watch, a chain and a baseball cap.
Thomson then drove on the wrong side of the road and intentionally struck the side of another car traveling in the same direction.
Soon after, the police attempted to stop Thomson by activating their sirens and lights. He responded by turning off his headlights and accelerating. He was arrested by the police who were putting spikes across the road.
Thomson pleaded guilty to six counts of robbery, two counts of dangerous driving, one count of failure to stop and one count of illegal possession of a firearm.
Because he had had two “strikes” for a previous offense, he appeared before the High Court of Tauranga, before Judge Graham Lang.
Lang told Thomson that the third strike meant there was no choice but to give him the maximum sentence, which in this case was 14 years in prison for aggravated theft.
The Three Strike Legislation contains a provision that in exceptional circumstances where it would be manifestly unfair to do so, a judge can refuse an order requiring the offender to serve a full sentence without parole.
Justice Lang said Thomson’s offense was serious and had far-reaching effects on his victims, but he disagreed with the Crown’s contention that it was premeditated.
The offense was “opportunistic” and the judge noted that the firearm had not been loaded, although “it would have been of little comfort to the victims.”
Thomson had previously been convicted of aggravated theft four times and was sentenced to prison in 2015, 2016 and 2018.
A psychiatrist’s report noted a history of domestic violence and physical abuse. Thomson left school at 15 with no qualifications and had never had a job. He had no connection with his iwi and no knowledge of anything related to his cultural background.
He started using cannabis at 13 and methamphetamine at 16 or 17, and had been a patched member of the Killer Beez and Tribesmen gangs.
The judge noted that Thomson had three young children, but had little to do with them or their mother.
Justice Lang agreed with the psychiatrist that Thomson was likely to have a high risk of recidivism in the future. But he said a 14-year sentence without parole “would amount to a crushing sentence for a person your age.”
He felt that it would be patently unfair to require Thomson to serve his sentence without parole. He sentenced him to 14 years in prison and said he would be eligible for parole after serving four years and eight months.