Home invasion robber cuts deal to avoid life sentence

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by LINDA BYRON / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @LByronK5

KING5.com

Posted on December 13, 2011 at 9:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 14 at 12:15 AM

SEATTLE – As George Nelson Augustine walked into King County Superior Court wearing an orange jail jumpsuit he looked like just another criminal facing a judge.

But the words spoken by Augustine in court brought a sense of release to the 68-year-old Seattle woman he’d robbed. She told KING 5 News she had been living in fear ever since being robbed.  She asked to be identified only as “El” for safety reasons. 

“Guilty,” Augustine repeated four times when asked how he pleaded to four felony counts, including residential burglary, assault third degree, theft of a firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm. In court, Augustine admitted that he was behind the home invasion robbery at El’s home on August 26, 2010.

El told KING 5 News her harrowing story just hours after the robbery. She said there was one thought going through her mind that night: “Please don’t kill me, period…just stay calm.”

Augustine and two other men forced their way into El’s home at 2:45 a.m. She remembered hearing a quiet knock on the door. 

“So I opened the door and there was a gun in my face,” she said.  El had two houseguests staying with her. The robbers duct taped their legs, hands and mouths. The men forced El to open the safe in her bedroom. She said she was so scared she kept fumbling the code and was afraid the robbers might kill her. Once she opened the safe, the men loaded everything into El’s car and fled.  They took passports, credit cards, guns, jewelry, and computers.

As Seattle Police worked the case, they gave the KING 5 Investigators rare access to follow them. Lead detectives Mike Magan and Brad Craig questioned El and her house guests at police headquarters. When surveillance photos surfaced of a man using El’s stolen ATM card, Magan and Craig distributed them to the Seattle television stations, hoping someone watching the news would recognize the suspect. It worked. A tipster identified the man in the photo as George Augustine.

The Seattle Police Robbery Unit has just six full time detectives and each typically juggles at least a dozen cases. But everything was put on hold in order to help Magan and Craig search for Augustine and one week after the crime occurred, they had him in custody.

Augustine was charged with first degree robbery and first degree burglary. His trial was scheduled to begin this month. As a “three strikes” felon, he faced a possible life sentence if convicted. Instead, he agreed to plead guilty to four lesser charges and, in exchange, prosecutors recommended a 25-year sentence. He will be sentenced on January 13.

“It ensures that we don’t go to trial and the victim doesn’t have the relive this nightmare again in a courtroom with 12 jurors she doesn’t know,” said Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Steven Kim.

Detective Mike Magan said the end result was a success for the robbery unit, prosecutors, and most of all, for the victim.

“The prosecutor, we work closely in getting everybody rounded up and charged. It restores your faith in the system. We know that it definitely works,” said Detective Mike Magan.

In addition to Augustine, two additional suspects were arrested for taking part in the robbery. Sean Kenneth Oie pleaded guilty and is serving a five year prison term. A third man is headed to trial later this month.

Most of El’s property was never recovered -- including her passport and credit cards. 

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