Criminals often claim to have found God when it's time to go before a judge for sentencing.
This time, it might be true.
Family, friends and even the federal prosecutor agree Sydney Garreau, 28, seems sincere in his newfound devotion to the Lord. Garreau, of Eagle Butte, has even been leading Bible studies in the Pennington County Jail, reportedly helping other violent offenders find closer relationships with God.
"I believe in this one," Bishop Lorenzo Kelly said during a Monday sentencing hearing for Garreau in U.S. District Court. Kelly said he has worked with Garreau and his family for the past six or seven months.
"I've seen the change," he said.
Although Garreau's conversion appears to be real, U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier said it doesn't excuse his actions last spring when he escaped from custody, then used a baseball bat to assault a childhood friend who testified against him in another court case. The U.S. Marshal's Service spent two weeks looking for Garreau before he was caught.
"Unfortunately, you're going to have the consequences of the choices that you made," Schreier said, though she did give Garreau credit for doing good works in jail.
Schreier sentenced Garreau to 16 months in prison for escape, a charge filed after he walked away from Community Alternatives of the Black Hills on March 13, 2007, because he expected to fail a drug test. Schreier sentenced Garreau to 40 months in prison for assaulting Bryan Lawrence while he was on the run.
Garreau pleaded guilty to both crimes. He will serve those sentences concurrently after completing a sentence for carrying or using a firearm during a crime of violence. He was sentenced to 84 months in prison on that charge in 2001 after Lawrence provided information to investigators.
Because Garreau violated terms of his release by escaping from CABH, where he was placed while on probation, he is now completing that 2001 prison sentence. He will begin serving the sentences he received Monday after he completes the previous sentence.
Before Schreier pronounced sentence, Garreau's attorney, Monica Colbath, acknowledged her client had a history of violent behavior and can be intimidating.
"He has not always been a good man," she said. "He has not always done the right thing. But he is not that man today."
Garreau said he takes responsibility for what he's done and being in custody made him wake up to reality.
"God really stepped into my life and changed my life for the better. Not only just changed it but saved it," he told Schreier, at times choking up. "The Lord had mercy on me, and I just ask that you do too."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Olson said Garreau also affected Lawrence, his wife and their two children. They're still dealing with the trauma of the March 17, 2007, attack at their Eagle Butte home. Olson said they were too afraid of Garreau to testify at sentencing.
"(Bryan Lawrence) had previously done the right thing" by cooperating with authorities when Garreau was charged with holding a gun to a 16-year-old's head, Olson said. "That didn't serve him very well."
Garreau has written a letter of apology to Lawrence. "What I did was terribly wrong," he said. "I'm real ashamed of what I did."
Garreau also wrote a letter of apology to a South Dakota Highway Patrolman who was assaulted near Mobridge on March 18, 2007, by Garreau's friend Jeremy DeCoteau.
DeCoteau, 28, Eagle Butte, is accused of assaulting the officer when he tried to arrest DeCoteau on a parole violation. Garreau, who was in the car with DeCoteau, fled the scene. DeCoteau was later captured and charged in state court with resisting arrest, aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer and attempted second-degree murder.
DeCoteau is awaiting sentencing in federal court for assault with a dangerous weapon, aiding and abetting, in connection with the attack on Bryan Lawrence. The state case against DeCoteau is on hold pending resolution of the federal case.
Contact Heidi Bell Gease at 394-8419 or email@example.com.