LARGO — They lined up Monday in front of the judge on behalf of Travonti DeBose. His mother and his sister, his grandparents and uncle, even the father who went to prison.
They called him a good kid, a smart kid. They said he was a loving son and brother from a religious family. He deserved another chance, they said. And he would never, ever do it again.
"Have mercy upon my son," said mother Darnesha Cumming. "Give him a second chance."
But Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip J. Federico sentenced the 22-year-old St. Petersburg man to 16 years in prison and declared him a sexual predator for raping one boy and trying to rape another.
"We are here because of his actions," the judge said. "The fact is that these young men were injured both physically and psychologically, and that if he was in a position to be free, he could repeat this."
The state said he already has. In 2003, DeBose was just 15 when he was arrested for fondling a 13-year-old boy in a John Hopkins Middle School bathroom.
DeBose was at it again at age 19, police said, when he was accused of terrorizing three high school students around Lakewood High School between September 2006 and March 2007.
In the first attack, a 6-foot, 240-pound DeBose raped a teen. He physically attacked two more teens, police said, but bystanders interrupted and detained him during the third attack.
But the state said it only had enough evidence to charge him in the first and third attacks.
Assistant State Attorney Ashley Hawkins said DeBose had already been through a diversion program as a juvenile.
"Four years later he's doing the same thing," she said. "Some of his family members said that he has learned from his mistakes.
"Clearly he has not."
DeBose pleaded guilty to charges of sexual battery, attempted sexual battery and robbery on Sept. 25, after the judge agreed to cap his sentence to the minimum of 16 years.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8472.