Donte Alston had been sleeping in his car parked outside the Home Depot where he worked, and then he lost both.
He couch surfed for a while with new friends and got addicted to prescription pills and lean, a drink of codeine and cough syrup with promethazine.
That was Alston’s life on April 5, 2017, according to his defense attorney, when he robbed a Smyrna bank at gunpoint and led cops on a high-speed chase. The 23-year-old was sentenced to 10 years and a month in prison on Tuesday.
Alston was wearing a mask and gloves when he walked into the Fifth Third Bank on Cobb Parkway and pointed a pistol at a clerk, demanding money.
He left with about $2,500 in a backpack, but didn’t know the cash came with a GPS tracker.
Cops said Alston led them on a chase in a 2006 silver Chevy Aveo through local roads, sometimes hitting 70 mph, before he hydroplaned into a fence. Officers found the cash and a loaded gun in the car.
All this came as a shock to his mother, siblings and loved ones who wrote the judge asking for leniency. In all, the judge received 11 letters from supporters, many of whom mentioned how Alston handled being the only male of his seven siblings and mother. His family said that, after his parent’s divorce and the departure of his father, Alston became the man of the house as a pre-teen.
He became legal guardian to one of his younger sisters when she was 15. She wrote that she knows her brother’s crimes. “However, it doesn’t change the fact (that) he’s a good man.”
The judge also received all sorts of pictures of Alston, including him as a baby holding a box of Mr. Bubble and of him graduating from North Paulding High School.
Alston’s attorney entered into evidence his high school transcript and job reviews from three years in the lumber section of Home Depot on Cumberland Parkway.
This was all to convince the judge to give Alston the minimum sentence of seven years.
“Alston asks that the Court consider the totality of his short life in deciding the sentence in this case and not only what he did on his worst, darkest day,” his defense attorney Courtney O’Donnell wrote.
O’Donnell was not immediately available for comment Thursday.
After his decade-long prison term, Alston will live three years on supervised release.
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