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Excuses don't fly with judge

Sequoyah James Bosto apologized Friday to the family of the man he and another teenager beat to death, but not before asking to withdraw his guilty plea. He blamed his actions on a mental defect from fetal alcohol syndrome and his own chemical abuse.

Sequoyah James Bosto apologized Friday to the family of the man he and another teenager beat to death, but not before asking to withdraw his guilty plea. He blamed his actions on a mental defect from fetal alcohol syndrome and his own chemical abuse.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Heather Sweetland denied Bosto's request and handed down a 40-year prison sentence -- the same sentence his accomplice, Jordan Michael Metoxen, received in November.

Bosto, 19, and Metoxen, 18, pleaded guilty to intentional second-degree murder in the June slaying of licensed practical nurse Donald O'Brien, 40 feet from his Gary-New Duluth home. Under terms of their plea agreements, both accepted longer-than-guideline prison sentences.

The teenagers will be eligible for supervised release after serving about 26 years in prison.

St. Louis County prosecutor Leslie Beiers told the court that O'Brien was "a well-liked man, a treasured family man" and the victim of "a senseless and savage crime that has had a devastating impact on Mr. O'Brien's family."

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Sweetland determined that the longer-than-guideline prison sentence was justified because the victim was made vulnerable by a prior stroke, the defendants treated him with particular cruelty and he was in his zone of privacy with the assumption that he should be safe near his home.

Bosto and Metoxen repeatedly kicked and stomped O'Brien more than a dozen times while robbing him of a 12-pack of beer and his wallet as he walked from the liquor store to his home on June 9. O'Brien died the next day of multiple traumatic injuries to his face, head and neck resulting in massive brain trauma and bleeding. He also suffered nine broken ribs.

"I just want to say I'm sorry to all the victims," Bosto said before being sentenced. "I know everybody lost somebody, so pretty much nobody won in this situation, and that's it."

Bosto had earlier fired his defense attorney and represented himself at the sentencing hearing in St. Louis County District Court. He said he felt pressured to admit guilt because he said his defense attorney told him a grand jury would be convened to consider a first-degree murder indictment against him if he didn't plead guilty.

He testified Friday that because of chemically induced mental defects, he has been incapable of feeling or expressing normal human emotions. He said his drug abuse included cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and aerosol sprays. He said he huffed gasoline as a seventh-grader, his last year of education.

"I have never been able to make decisions of any substantial importance that affects my future due to my total inability to comprehend consequences or possibilities, nor how they will affect me or others," he read to the court in a prepared statement. "I have been essentially a mental invalid since I was born."

Bosto renewed his requests to withdraw his guilty plea and to be evaluated to determine whether he was mentally competent to understand the charges against him and to use mental illness as a defense. Sweetland denied the requests for a second time.

The court had earlier ruled that Bosto's guilty plea was "accurate, voluntary and intelligent." In her decision, the judge wrote that there was enough evidence to conclude that a jury could reasonably find the defendant guilty of second-degree murder if the case went to trial.

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Donald O'Brien's adult son and daughter, David and Tina, had their victim impact statements read for them by others in the courtroom.

Tina called her father "a loving, caring, honest person," whose death has left a hole in her and her family's hearts. David said outside the courtroom that he was too distraught to comment.

MARK STODGHILL covers public safety and courts. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5333 or by e-mail at mstodghill@duluthnews.com .

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