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Marquis Dixon Gets Youthful Offender Status On Appeal

 A rallygoer holds a sign supporting Marquis Dixon.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

A state appeals court has reversed the conviction that sent an Albany teenager to a nine-year prison term for a sneaker robbery.

The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court declared Marquis Dixon a youthful offender and sentenced him to one to three years in prison. Dixon had been convicted of an armed robbery over a pair of sneakers at a downtown McDonald’s parking lot.


Jaya Sundaresh  is an activist with Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration.   "So we're very happy by the court's decision; this went pretty much the best we could have expected."

The Times Union, which made Dixon something of a cause celebre, reports that the court ruled Dixon was wrongly denied an opportunity for youthful offender status when he was sentenced to nine years in prison for stealing the sneakers at gunpoint from a victim he lured via Facebook. No weapon was ever recovered. He has been incarcerated at Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie.   "We're not exactly sure when he'll be getting out, but we can say it'll probably be very soon.  We are cognizant of the fact that there are still young people in jail who should not be in jail, who are experiencing horrific prison conditions, who should not be experiencing prison conditions. New York state and North Carolina are the only two states in the country that treat 16- and 17-year-olds the same way they prosecute adults. So we really need to raise the age of criminal responsibility in the state."

Aisha Dixon has conceded her son deserves punishment. She said so during an August 2015 community rally outside Albany County District Attorney David Soares' office.  "I do believe my son is guilty of a crime, stealing sneakers, but he's not guilty of a gun charge. So if justice is done correctly, my son will be proven innocent. I believe his time has been served. Just let my son home. You know, nine years is too long. Who's to say I'm gonna be here for nine years and be able to hug and touch my son again?"

Soares had addressed the case a few weeks earlier on WAMC's Capitol Connection program.   "I believe that there should be reform in criminal justice. But I don't believe that that reform starts with allowing young people with weapons to be robbing other people, and then making decisions about sentences based upon what the bounty of that robbery was."

The DA is home recovering from a heart condition and was not available for an interview. Soares' office responded to a request for comment by email:   "From the beginning, the only sentencing request we have made is that the punishment should reflect the seriousness of the crime.  We are pleased that the Court upheld the jury’s verdict and are satisfied with the Court’s decision.”

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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