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Prison Term for Prosecutor’s Son : Robbery Sentence May Change After Psychiatric Study

Times Staff Writer

The 21-year-old son of a local prosecutor was sentenced Monday to 40 years in federal prison for robbing two banks in 1984, but the judge who sentenced John Mark Hewicker III said he would modify the man’s prison term after a 90-day psychiatric study.

Monday’s sentencing was a pro forma affair called for by federal law. U.S. District Judge J. Lawrence Irving was required by law to impose the maximum sentence on Hewicker, who pleaded guilty in April to two counts of bank robbery, before he could order him to undergo a 90-day diagnostic study.

Irving will decide on Hewicker’s final prison term after reviewing the psychiatric report. Although he was sentenced on only two counts, Hewicker admitted robbing eight banks. Investigators said that Hewicker committed the robberies by walking up to a teller and demanding money. No weapons were used and nobody was injured in the holdups.

Hewicker is the son of Deputy Dist. Atty. John Hewicker II, and the grandson of the late John Hewicker, a Superior Court judge in San Diego County for 21 years. The younger Hewicker said that he robbed the banks to pay for his cocaine addiction.

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With young Hewicker’s father and mother, Rosemary Hewicker, sitting in the audience, defense attorney Ramon Castro told Irving that his client turned to alcohol and drugs because he could not live up to his family’s tradition of success, and he could not cope with a demanding father.

Castro quoted from a probation officer’s report that described the elder Hewicker as “impersonal” and “authoritarian.”

“This, Your Honor, is what Mr. Hewicker grew up with . . . where mistakes and errors were not condoned or allowed . . . the family was unable to accept anything but success,” Castro said.

But Castro said the young man’s trouble with the law has brought the family together, and added that he was “impressed by the affection that’s starting to surface” within the family for Hewicker.

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While the defense attorney quoted from the report, Hewicker’s father sat staring straight ahead, his lower lip protruding firmly over the top lip. After the hearing, the former FBI agent walked quickly out of the courtroom, followed by his wife, while a marshal took his son into custody.

Irving had indicated to Castro and Assistant U.S. Atty. Patrick O’Toole that he was ready to sentence Hewicker on Monday. But the judge agreed to postpone sentencing after O’Toole joined Castro in asking for a 90-day study.

Before ordering Hewicker to undergo the psychiatric study, Irving asked O’Toole what, if anything, the study would accomplish.

“I don’t know for sure,” said O’Toole. But the prosecutor said that the study might explain the motive for Hewicker’s short-lived career as a bank robber, even though the man had confessed that he robbed banks to feed his cocaine habit.

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“What difference would that make (explaining the motive)?” Irving said.

“I’m not sure,” O’Toole said.

Hewicker addressed the court briefly, and said he was “extremely sorry” about the robberies he committed. Afterward, the elder Hewicker told Irving that his son expected to be punished.

“It was with very mixed feelings that I accompanied the (FBI) agents to my neighborhood to arrest my own son,” Hewicker said. “He does expect to be punished.” But he said he hoped that the punishment imposed by Irving “would be tempered with mercy.”

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Irving made it clear to the defendant that he would modify his sentence after reviewing the psychiatric report. The judge said he was concerned about Hewicker’s safety in prison because of his family’s involvement in law enforcement.

“Because of who you are I’m concerned about what impact this would have on your custody . . . what other inmates might do to you,” Irving said.


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