By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
To claim that Danny or Wayne knows the whereabouts of the arsenal is a lie, according to their parents. "I know for a fact that Danny would not allow his brother to sit in jail if he knew where the guns were," Roxann says. "I went with Danny to those kids' homes to look for the guns, and Danny was scared for his life."
Wayne's only other hope before sentencing was to convince Judge Holmes to send him to a juvenile rehabilitation program, which would offer more vocational training and counseling than a prison. In a pre-sentence investigation ordered by the judge, two probation officers separately recommended that, because of Wayne's young age, lack of prior offenses, and lesser role in the crime, he should be sentenced to a long stint at a juvenile facility.
In previous hearings the judge had sympathetically mentioned Wayne's "tender age." But that was before teenagers shot up Columbine High School in April and Heritage High School in Conyers, Georgia, in May. At the sentencing hearing in June, both Ken Gillespie, the prosecutor who took over for Losey, and Firestein hammered away at the relevance of these tragedies. "I'm from Littleton, 12 blocks from Columbine High School, and I see that happening again with these weapons," Firestein later told New Times.
Firestein's invocation of Littleton was pure chutzpah. He did spend time in that Denver suburb in the late '70s, according to his Davie personnel file. What he didn't tell the judge was that he owned a gun shop there. "We sell to the public," read his Mile Hi Police Supply business card, which advertised "rifles, shotguns, and pistols of all calibers." He subsequently moved that business to Fort Lauderdale, renaming it Broward Police Supply, and also bought and sold guns at his four pawnshops in Broward.
According to Roxann Dagenais, Judge Holmes was visibly affected by the comments about the school shootings. And when Danny testified that he, not Wayne, bore most of the responsibility for the burglary, the judge snapped at him, saying he too should have been sent to her for adult treatment. Then she sentenced Wayne to four years in a youthful-offender prison and two years of probationary house arrest -- the same sentence she'd given Smith. "If this had happened two years ago, before the high-school massacre, maybe the mindset of the judge would have been different," Kollin says.
But Holmes denies that the comments about the school shootings affected her decision. "I don't let what's happening in current events really shape my opinion," she explains. "I look at the defendant and at the charges and make my decision based on that." The judge says she also considers the victim's level of responsibility for the crime as a possible reason for giving a lighter sentence. Yet she seemed surprised to hear from New Times about Firestein's role in exposing Wayne to the guns. "You're telling me things I didn't know," she says. "If I'm aware of the culpability of the victim, my sentence is reflective of that."
Losey was pleased that Wayne wasn't sent to what he calls the "playground" of "kiddie court" and juvenile programs. "This country gave up on rehabilitation a long time ago," he argues. "It doesn't work. The number one goal is punishment."
Holmes also ordered Wayne to pay $35,931 in restitution for the 48 guns and 60 bottles of stolen wine. But Lewen, the former juvenile defender, says that hitting a juvenile with a heavy fine on top of a relatively long prison sentence is unrealistic and unfair. "It's two-faced to say, 'I expect you to pay $36,000,'" he argues, "then on the other hand, say 'I'll set this kid up with an adult conviction,' so the rest of his life is ruined and he can't earn the money to pay off such a big debt."
Since he's been behind bars, Wayne has done a lot of reading, and he's studying for his GED. His girlfriend and family members have noticed a dramatic improvement in his letters. He wants to learn a marketable skill like electrical work and earn as many good-behavior points as possible so he can get the maximum 15 percent off his four-year sentence and be out in March 2001. Before his arrest he and Louise had discussed getting married. But when they talked by phone about a month ago, she says, "Wayne was crying on the phone, saying he loved me, but that it would be too selfish of him to ask me to wait. I love him a lot, but now I'm kinda caught."
Wayne still has one last legal hope. Under threat of a malpractice suit by Roxann, Kollin grudgingly filed a motion last month to reduce Wayne's sentence, which could include transferring him to a juvenile facility. Judge Holmes has yet to rule on the motion. Wayne, meanwhile, is philosophical about the way the system has treated him. "I don't think it's fair," he says, "but that's just life."
Since Danny was placed on probation, he started his first regular job, as a busboy, and has toned down his wild ways, his mother says. On September 29 he goes before an administrative judge who will decide how much he must pay in restitution. His parents hope the judge will consider that Firestein probably didn't pay more than $80 for any of the guns and will set a figure much lower than $35,931. "He was a scam artist," Danny says. "He told me everyone who ever worked for him stole from him."