EASTON, Pa. – By all accounts, Alkiohn Dunkins lived a very good childhood, Northampton County Judge Paula Roscioli said.
He was raised in a faith-based background by loving parents and is an intelligent young man who should be able to make good decisions, the judge said.
“So, it is a mystery to me how you find yourself here today,” Roscioli said.
On Friday, the judge sentenced the 20-year-old Dunkins to 5 to 10 years in state prison for his role in the armed robbery of a fellow Moravian College student inside a college dorm.
A jury in September convicted Dunkins of robbery, simple assault, conspiracy and receiving stolen property in connection to the February 2017 robbery of a Moravian College student in Hassler Hall.
Roscioli sentenced Dunkins to 36 to 72 months in prison on the robbery charge and 24 to 48 months on the conspiracy charge, ordering that he serve the sentences consecutively. She sentenced him to 1 to 12 months on the assault charge, which will run concurrently to the larger sentence. The theft charge merged with the other charges for purposes of sentencing.
Dunkins’ mother, Carolyn Dunkins, described her son as a very obedient boy, who never fought with his siblings and never caused problems in school. She described him as respectful, honorable, loving and kind.
Carolyn Dunkins said her son loved his community and church and read to elementary school students in the Bethlehem school district when he was a student at Freedom High School. Even when he was in prison, Alkiohn Dunkins called her about someone who was being released and needed clothes and a place to stay.
“I’m very proud of my son,” she said. “I’m proud of this young man standing next to me.”
Carolyn Dunkins told Roscioli that she was at a loss to explain why she was standing next to her son in a courtroom as there had never been any signs he’d ever do something like this.
“Give him an opportunity to prove who he really is,” she said.
Roland Cash said he met Dunkins in high school. The two became close friends, and Dunkins would make sure he had food when he didn’t have enough to eat and sneakers to wear. He’d give him rides to college, and his family treated him like a son, Cash said.
“He always came through for me when no one else could,” Cash said, calling Dunkins a brother and mentor.
We miss him. He’s not no monster. He’s not a monster,” Cash said.
Before imposing sentence, Roscioli said the case was a “complete shock and surprise” to Dunkins’ friends and family. The defense and prosecution each spoke to the upbringing and opportunities Dunkins had before ending up a Moravian College.
“I agree with both attorneys that you shouldn’t be here today,” Roscioli said.
The judge said she had a difficult time understanding that a crime like this would be committed on a college campus. Parents worry about their children drinking too much or flunking out of school, she said.
But never before did she worry that her child might be robbed at gunpoint by someone posing as campus security, the judge said. A lesser sentence would have diminished the fact that this crime took place on a college campus, Roscioli said.
Before sentencing, defense attorney Michael Diamondstein said he objected to findings in a pre-sentencing investigation about Dunkins’ alleged gang affiliations. He asked that the prosecution not be allowed to reference any such allegations without an opportunity to make an appropriate defense.
The judge said prison officials determined Dunkins had gang affiliations but said she would not consider such allegations at sentencing without evidence from the prosecution.
Assistant District Attorney Richard Pepper said he did not plan on submitting any such evidence.
Dunkins was scheduled to be sentenced in November, but Diamondstein asked the court to grant a new trial based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that he argued had direct bearing on Dunkins’ case.
Northampton County Judge Paula Roscioli in December denied Dunkins’ motion for extraordinary relief, ruling the high court’s decision dealt with a different set of circumstances regarding the collection of cell phone data compared to Dunkins’ case.
Before trial, the defense had asked the court to suppress cell phone information obtained by Moravian College police without a warrant. Specifically, police used cell-site records for any wireless, internet-enabled device connected to the college’s wireless network to track Dunkins’ whereabouts the night of the robbery. The college’s wi-fi network placed Dunkin in the dorm at the time of the robbery.
The U.S. Supreme Court case involved a defendant accused in multiple robberies. Cell-site records placed the defendant’s cell phone near four of the robberies at nearly the exact time of the robberies, according to court papers. Authorities secured court orders for those records, and the Supreme Court found that a request for such records constitutes a search for Fourth Amendment purpose.
Cell-site location information or CSLI is collected when a person’s cell phone connects to the nearest cell tower, whenever a cell phone is turned on. In the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, justices found that a phone’s constant connection to the nearest cell tower meant the defendant “has been effectively tailed every moment of every day,” according to court papers.
The prevalence of cell phone use means CSLI collection is a “detailed chronicle” of someone’s daily movements, according to court papers. The court found that a warrant is required for that information as people have a “legitimate expectation of privacy” regarding their physical movements.
Diamondstein, who was retained after the trial, argued the same burden should apply to any cell phone information gathered through Moravian College’s wi-fi system. Roscioli, however, found that the college’s system is different from a larger cellular network.
Moravian’s wi-fi network is confined to a “finite geographic space of a private college campus,” Roscioli ruled. She likened it to wi-fi network that may exist at a mall or a security camera network at that mall or on a college campus.
Roscioli also drew a clear distinction between the unavoidable use of cell towers and the voluntary use of a wi-fi network.
A cell phone will connect to a tower by virtue of its user turning on the phone, making it unavoidable to leave behind a data trail. Use of the Moravian network, meanwhile, is voluntary, and a user can disconnect at any time by turning off the wi-fi connection, according to court papers.
As she did in her original pre-trial ruling, Roscioli noted that policies in the Moravian College student handbook make it clear that any connections made to the campus wireless network are subject to inspection by the school at any time.