11/30/04 — Former high school star sentenced

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Former high school star sentenced

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on November 30, 2004 1:59 PM

A remorseful former Goldsboro High School football star admitted that he had made a terrible mistake last summer when he robbed a tire company of more than $2,400.

"I'm sorry for what I did," Derontae Tremaine Lee of Central Heights Road said Monday in Wayne County Superior Court.

The 20-year-old Lee, a wide receiver who had played a year of football at a junior college in Minnesota, had picked up a woman employee at Prince Tire Co., then pushed her down, grabbed the money and fled in his mother's car.

"I didn't mean to scare you ... Please forgive me for what I did," he said to the employee.

As Assistant District Attorney Paige Rouse recounted the events of July 23, Lee covered his face.

Ms. Rouse said he had brandished a pistol at the woman. After he took the money, he was pursued by several witnesses before he jumped from a car, leaving behind most of the money and some clothes.

Ms. Rouse said Lee had been to the tire company at 1011 S. George St. once before for a job interview and had noticed a woman with a bank bag.

Defense lawyer Charles Gurley painted a different picture of his client. He said he had never represented a client who was so remorseful for what he had done.

Lee had achieved a 3.1 grade point average in school. He had been promised a scholarship to a junior college in Kansas, but when he arrived, he was told that there were no scholarships. So he enrolled at a college in Minnesota.

Gurley said Lee's parents did not have the money to send him back for his sophomore year. In the meantime, he said, Lee had tried to get jobs in Goldsboro but was turned away.

"His future has been destroyed," Gurley said. "...He made a dumb mistake that will cost him."

The lawyer said he did not condone Lee's action but said the robbery was committed because of his economic situation.

Lee could have been sentenced to almost 19 years in prison. But Judge Kenneth Crow of New Bern noted that Lee had confessed immediately. Crow sentenced the defendant to 60 to 81 months, including the time he had spent in jail since his arrest. Lee also was ordered to pay restitution of $15 that was never recovered to Prince Tire Co., $542 to the woman employee for her medical bills and $455 to Gurley, his court-appointed lawyer.