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La Crosse man sentenced to 10 years in prison for armed robbery

La Crosse man sentenced to 10 years in prison for armed robbery

From the What you missed this week in notable La Crosse crimes and court cases series
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George Goins mug

Goins

It was like a scene out of a horror movie, said prosecutor Susan Donskey.

A woman came home from work last October on a sunny afternoon on her birthday, started her usual after-work routine, and then saw two figures in the mirror behind her. One of them was George L. Goins.

Goins, 37, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and five years on extended supervision Tuesday by Judge Elliott Levine after pleading guilty to armed robbery and felony bail jumping.

Donskey asked for the maximum sentence for both charges to be served consecutively, which would have been a total of 16 years initial confinement and 8 years on extended supervision.

“What keeps standing out to me is this reads like a horror movie, this reads like someone’s nightmare,” Donskey said about the police report.

Goins entered the house with a man police identify as Audie C. Benford-Murphy, 27, and approached her holding a revolver, according to the complaint. The woman told police one pushed her and asked her for drugs, then hit her with the hand that was holding the gun, while the other rummaged through her belongings.

The two men told her to lie on the bed and count to 25 before leaving. She told police they took a revolver, a .22-calibre rifle and a 9-millimeter handgun, as well as ammunition, the woman’s phone and a computer.

An officer recognized Goins from previous law enforcement contact on surveillance video from the home’s dining room.

“That case is truly bone-chilling. It’s terrifying that that kind of behavior would happen in that our community,” Donskey said.

At the time, Goins was being monitored on GPS by Justice Support Services while out on bond after he was accused of another burglary. Charges from that incident were dismissed and read-in as part of the plea negotiations.

The victim described the impact of the incident, saying she had to move out of La Crosse due to the terror.

“It got to the point when I was still living in La Crosse that I couldn’t go to work, I couldn’t come home from work. I lost my job. It was hard. Nobody ever thinks that it would happen to them,” she told the court. “It still is hard even just to think about it and talk about it.”

The victim asked for a substantial prison sentence.

“Her freedom was taken away, and she had no input into it. She didn’t make a bad choice, she was just coming home from work on her birthday,” Donskey said.

Goins took responsibility for his actions Tuesday, admitting that he burglarized the residence while out on bond for another burglary.

“My mind was not in the right place. I was under the influence of cocaine; nevertheless, I understand that there is no excuse for this kind of behavior,” Goins said.

Goins apologized to the victim and prayed that she will one day recover from the psychological and emotional damage.

Goins also apologized to Levine.

“I’m honestly embarrassed and ashamed to be standing here before you today. I gave you my word that I would not get in trouble,” Goins said. “The irony is I wasn’t lying. I truly believed that once I was out of custody, I would succeed. Instead I committed a crime.”

When Goins was released on house arrest, he had nowhere to go and slept outside for two weeks, he said. He felt like he had lost everything: his job, his home, his chance for a college education.

“There are no excuses and I know everybody has it hard. No one forced me to make the bad choice,” Goins said.

Levine said he had no doubt that Goins was remorseful and repented his crimes, but the seriousness of the crime, especially because it was committed with a firearm, required a prison sentence. The presence of the gun makes it infinitely more dangerous for the victim.

“At that moment, you don’t know as a human being: Are you going to survive this moment or not? Who says you wouldn’t have been startled in that second and pulled the trigger?” Levine said. “Anything could have happened. You had a deadly weapon — a gun — which with so little effort takes the life of another human being.”

Goins also was sentenced to two years in prison and two years on supervision for felony bail jumping, to be served concurrently with the armed robbery sentence. He received credit for 454 days spent in the La Crosse County Jail.

“My life is over at this point,” Goins said after the sentence was announced.

Charges of second-degree sexual assault using force against Goins were dismissed.

Audie C. Benford-Murphy

Benford-Murphy

Benford-Murphy of La Crosse has been charged with burglary armed with a dangerous weapon and felon in possession of a firearm, both as a repeat offender, in connection with the incident. That case is ongoing.

Benford-Murphy was convicted in November of battery by prison and sentenced to five years in prison and two years on extended supervision. Judge Gloria Doyle granted a signature bond in his latest case, noting that he won’t be out on the streets due to that conviction.


Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.

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