'Calm' York City robber lashes out at judge during sentencing

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
  • Courtroom observers said Judge Snyder appeared unfazed by the profane outburst directed at him.

A convicted armed robber who police said was calm as he shot his prostrate victim in the head was decidedly less placid after learning his prison sentence.

Steven Frederick Stokes Jr., 27, of no fixed address, was sentenced Monday, Nov. 6, to  20 to 40 years in state prison by presiding Common Pleas Judge Gregory M. Snyder.

Steven Stokes Jr.

As sheriff's deputies led him from the courtroom, Stokes vented his ire at Snyder, according to courtroom observers.

"I heard him say, 'F— you, Judge Snyder,'" said attorney Tom Kelley, himself a former York County judge.

Attorney Jay Whittle also witnessed the outburst.

"He stood up and he gave the judge the finger and said, 'F— you,'" Whittle said. "Then on the way through the side door (leading to holding cells), he said, 'You can suck my d—.'"

Savored the moment? Stokes smiled throughout his sentencing hearing, according to Whittle, who took the smile as indicative of a disdain for the judicial system.

"It seemed like he was just waiting for that moment and thoroughly enjoyed it," Whittle said.

Kelley and Whittle said Snyder had no reaction.

Instead of responding, the judge simply moved on to the next case, the attorneys said.

"I'm sure it's water off Judge Snyder's back," Kelley said.

Stokes maintains his innocence, according to defense attorney Seamus Dubbs.

"He still says he was minding his own business when someone put a gun in his pocket and told him to run," Dubbs said.

Dubbs said he will file a motion asking Snyder to reconsider the sentence.

But considering Stokes' outburst Monday, "I don’t think the reconsideration is going anywhere."

Dubbs said he has other appeal issues as well.

Dad in prison, too: Stokes' father, Steven Stokes Sr., spoke on his son's behalf in court, according to Dubbs, who said the elder Stokes said he wants to see his son get help.

The elder Stokes appeared in court wearing prison orange, as he too is a York County Prison inmate. Stokes Sr. is serving time on a felony drug charge.

The elder Stokes must pay whatever costs were incurred for transporting him to court, according to court records.

Senior deputy prosecutor Duane Ramseur said Stokes Jr.'s sentence was appropriate.

"He robbed four people at gunpoint and shot one of those four people in the head," the prosecutor said. "He needed to go to jail for a long time, and that's exactly what Judge Snyder did."

Stokes Jr. didn't know Saquan Darby, his shooting victim, according to Ramseur.

The background: Stokes robbed a group of four people at gunpoint on Aug. 10, 2016, in an alley behind the 100 block of South Belvidere Avenue.

Steven Stokes Jr.

Darby did as he was told, handing over his wallet, cellphone and watch. He then lay down on the ground as Stokes ordered him to.

"(Stokes) walked away from Saquan Darby, turned around and walked back, and then shot him in the head," Ramseur said. "That has attempted homicide written all over it, and I'm still shocked the jury found him not guilty of that offense."

A jury on Sept. 14 acquitted Stokes of attempted first-degree murder but convicted him of robbery, aggravated assault, being a felon in illegal possession of a firearm and providing false identification to police.

Had Stokes been convicted of attempted murder, the judge could have imposed an even longer prison sentence, according to Ramseur.

'Calm' robber: Charging documents at the time noted Stokes was calm as he shot Darby in the temple.

Darby somehow escaped with just a grazing wound to his forehead, and he subsequently recovered, Ramseur said.

Darby did not testify at Stokes' trial because prosecutors couldn't find him. Instead, they introduced a transcript of Darby's preliminary hearing testimony against Stokes.

"We tried to track him down, and the area we believed he was in was one of the areas hit by Hurricane Harvey," Ramseur said.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.