'It's finally over': Federal prison for York man who orchestrated robbery, shooting

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Shyhiem McDowell

A York City man convicted of orchestrating the robbery of Shyhiem McDowell and directing his ersatz stepdaughter to shoot the teen has been sentenced to nearly 20 years in federal prison.

Anthony Donnell Johnson told then-16-year-old Hydiea Banks, "You know what to do" when McDowell refused to submit to the robbery, after which she shot McDowell in the head, according to federal court records.

Johnson, 52, appeared in Harrisburg's federal court on Thursday, where he was sentenced to 230 months in prison, or a little more than 19 years. He also was sentenced to three years of supervised release — the federal version of probation — and ordered to pay McDowell $7,524 in restitution, court records state.

McDowell's mother, Shelaneia Sullivan, said she and her son are satisfied with Johnson's prison sentence.

"He'll (likely) spend the rest of his life in jail," she said. "Now our family can begin to heal. ... But no matter how much time he gets, it’s not ever going to make Shyhiem whole again."

Sullivan calls McDowell her miracle.

"I'm just thankful he's still with me," she said. Now 22, McDowell will never be able to live independently and struggles with physical and cognitive challenges, his mother has said.

Sullivan noted that the past four years of legal wrangling has been draining for her family and that after Johnson was sentenced, McDowell told her, "It's finally over."

Nearly died: Federal prosecutors argued in their sentencing memorandum that Johnson planned and carried out the robbery and shooting, which left McDowell with life-altering injuries.

"But for the grace of God, superior medical treatment by trauma doctors and surgeons, rehabilitation, and the love of his mother, Shyhiem McDowell would be dead," the memorandum states.

Johnson maintains his innocence and will appeal his conviction, according to defense attorney David Erhard.

"While we are glad that Mr. Johnson received a sentence on the low end of the sentencing guidelines, we still maintain that he is not guilty," Erhard told The York Dispatch. "So there is not really any acceptable sentence. His co-defendant, Ms. Banks, acted alone in setting up the robbery and firing the gun."

Federal prosecutors noted that Johnson's 10 criminal convictions include multiple counts of robbery and attempted robbery.

Anthony Donnell Johnson

The background: McDowell, then 18 years old, was critically wounded in the Jan. 9, 2016, shooting, which occurred in the yard of a home in the 300 block of Girard Avenue.

A federal jury on May 16 convicted Johnson of robbery and using a gun in the commission of a violent crime.

The jury found that the handgun used to shoot McDowell, a 9 mm pistol, was stolen, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Harrisburg. It was recovered during the arrest of Banks, York City Police have said.

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Testimony during Johnson's trial in Harrisburg's federal court revealed that McDowell remained in a comatose state for at least four months after being shot and had to undergo three brain surgeries and other "life-saving medical interventions," according to a news release from Dawn Clark, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Shyhiem McDowell

Shortly after the shooting, Johnson confessed to police that he and Banks "formed a plan to rob Shyhiem McDowell," court documents state. While "freely admitting" he was part of the robbery, he denied being the person who shot McDowell, according to documents.

Johnson also told York City detectives that Banks took McDowell's iPhone during the robbery, police allege.

Guilty plea: On Dec. 7, 2017, Banks pleaded guilty in York County Court to aggravated assault and was sentenced to eight to 16 years in state prison.

She was 16 when she shot McDowell in the head. Charges of attempted homicide and robbery were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

At her plea and sentencing hearing, Banks said she'd slept over at McDowell's home the night before. The two were platonic friends, she said.

As the two were walking along Girard Avenue, Johnson followed them, pulled a gun on McDowell and instructed Banks to go through his pockets, Banks said in court.

Hydiea Banks was 16 when she shot Shyhiem McDowell in the head, leaving him permanently disabled. She later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight to 16 years in prison.

She said she took cash, a cellphone, drugs and a gun from McDowell, then gave the cash and drugs to Johnson. She said she kept McDowell's gun and phone.

Johnson remains charged in York County with conspiracy to commit robbery for McDowell's attack and has a pretrial conference set for April 2.

He also has three other active criminal cases in York County Court on charges of drug dealing, possession of a controlled substance and shoplifting, according to court records.

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