Man gets 30 years for violent holdup of Dollar General store

URBANA – Noting the "gratuitous violence" that Lenard Lawrence used in robbing a manager at a Champaign business, a Champaign County judge sentenced him Wednesday to the maximum.

Because Judge Tom Difanis found that Lawrence inflicted "great bodily harm" on his victim, Difanis ordered that Lawrence must serve at least 85 percent of his 30-year sentence – or 25 1/2 years.

Lawrence, 38, whose last known address was in the 1300 block of North Champaign Street, Champaign, was convicted by a jury in early October of the July 20 armed robbery of the Dollar General, 817 W. Bloomington Road, C.

Testimony was that Lawrence brutally attacked the manager, Grant Luttrell, slamming his face into a cash register and hitting him in the back of the head with a gun after he got the cash drawer open.

Those blows, which broke Luttrell's nose, came after Lawrence had ordered Luttrell to lie on the floor, kicked him in the back of the leg and stomped on his neck and head.

Other testimony was that Lawrence held a gun to the head of Candace Williams, who was working her first day as a cashier. He ordered her to open the cash drawer, warning her that he would kill her if she did not.

Luttrell testified that he feared the gunman would kill Williams since she didn't know how to open the drawer. As Luttrell came to the front of the store, the gunman called him by his first name, telling him to get to the register. The attack on Luttrell happened when he got to the register.

Lawrence maintained at his sentencing that he had been misidentified and asked Difanis for mercy.

But Luttrell was confident when he identified Lawrence as the robber.

He said he knew Lawrence from coming in the store to visit his cousin, who was an employee there, and from having applied for a job there in May.

An employee of the Discount Smoke Shop nearby also identified Lawrence as the man he saw leaving the store on a bicycle.

That witness said the man lifted his shirt and displayed a handgun in his waistband.

Assistant State's Attorney Duke Harris said the public needed to be protected from Lawrence.

"He decided to pistol-whip Mr. Luttrell for no real reason. This kind of violence needs to be deterred," he said, calling for the maximum 30-year sentence.

But Assistant Public Defender Emily Monroe asked for something closer to the minimum of six years, acknowledging that her client still believes he's innocent.

Difanis said the beating that Lawrence doled out to Luttrell fit with the theory that Monroe put forth at trial, that Luttrell had some sort of dispute with Lawrence's cousin, who worked for him.

"The only explanation for the gratuitous violence is because he was getting even for (his cousin)," Difanis said. "Get even, rob his store and beat him senseless."

Difanis noted Lawrence had previous convictions for domestic battery, aggravated battery, attempted armed robbery and possession of a controlled substance.

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