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Marine Sentenced To 20 Years For Parachute Tampering

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CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A Marine who admitted cuttingparachute lines last year before a training jump was sentencedThursday to 20 years in prison by a military judge who urged him totry to be "a productive citizen."

Lance Cpl. Antoine D. Boykins admitted cutting suspension lineson 13 of the 22 parachutes that were to be used in the exerciseSept. 21. He said he knew someone could be killed or injuredbecause reserve chutes fail nearly half the time they are used.

Three Marines were injured in the jump's first wave, and theexercise was canceled.

The judge, Col. Alvin Keller, deliberated about five hoursbefore sentencing Boykins. He also cut Boykins' rank to private andsaid he would be dishonorably discharged. The sentence must beformally approved by the commander of the 2nd Marine ExpeditionaryForce.

"It's clear to this court that you have a great deal of naturalability and you are lucky to have a number of people who supportyou," said Keller, who heard testimony in person and by videotapefrom a number of members of Boykins' hometown church in Baltimore.

Boykins, 21, had pleaded guilty to nine counts of recklessendangerment, four counts of aggravated assault and one count ofdestruction of government property. He could have gotten as much as31 years in prison.

Keller told Boykins to heed the advice of his pastor, the Rev.Stephen Andrew Tillett, who testified that he told Boykins to findother Christians in prison and stick with them, and to take collegecourses while he serves his sentence.

"You can still be a productive citizen in this country if youtake advantage of what your pastor has recommended that you do,"Keller said.

Boykins will be eligible for parole after serving one-third ofhis sentence.

He was originally charged with attempted premeditated murder,reckless endangerment, aggravated assault and other crimes, butagreed to plead guilty and testify against another Marine chargedin the case.

Prosecutors said he deserved the maximum sentence. "This is acase about treachery," Lt. Col. Stuart Couch said.

He said Boykins was angry because he had been punished and hispay was docked when he returned late from leave.

"That anger burned in him," Couch said.

Prosecutors said Boykins' plan was well thought out and he had help. Prosecutors said Boykins told Cpl. Clayton A. Chaffin that they should do something to get to the captain. Prosecutors said it was Chaffin who devised the plan to cut the parachutes.

Prosecutors said it was Boykins who was picked to do the cutting because he was faster at packing the parachutes.

The prosecution also alleges that Boykins and Chaffin tried to frame another Marine, Julian Ramirez. Ramirez was arrested, but charges were later dropped.

Defense lawyer Kimberly Tarver of Baltimore pleaded for mercyand a lighter sentence, and asked that Boykins be transferred tomilitary prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., so he can getcounseling.

Before sentencing, Boykins told Keller that he "made the worstdecision I could ever imagine."

"Somewhere along the way, I went left where I should have goneright," Boykins said, reading from a prepared statement. "I waswrong and I am sorry."

Boykins' parents were among those who traveled from Baltimorefor the two-day sentencing hearing.

"He's a good kid," his father, Sammie Boykins, told Keller."Everybody makes a mistake in life. Everybody needs a secondchance. ... Look at him as if it was your son, your honor."

Sammie Boykins, a janitor, said Thursday that the experience hasbeen hard on his entire family, particularly his wife and fourother children. He said his wife recently "passed out worryingabout her son being in prison."

Members of the Mount Zion United Methodist Church also submitteda videotape in which they talked about how much they admiredBoykins.

"We love him and we want our Antoine back home," said onewoman.

Chaffin, 28, from Franklin, Ohio, is chargedwith 31 counts including reckless endangerment, aggravated assault,conspiracy and drug charges. He is scheduled to have his hearing in October.

 Credits

John Bachman, Reporter
Edward Wilson, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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