Mark Sanders walked into a federal courtroom with dark shaded sunglasses covering his eyes and a cane, guided by a U.S. marshal, who led him to the defense table.
Sanders, 23, was blinded when he was shot while robbing another man of a dirt bike.
As a result of the shooting, one of Sanders' eyes had to be removed. He lost use of the other eye.
"He will walk blind for the rest of his life," defense attorney Rocco Cipparone Jr. told U.S. District Judge Juan Sanchez at Sanders' sentencing hearing Monday. "He will eat blind for the rest of his life. He will drink blind for the rest of his life."
Sanchez on Monday sentenced Sanders to 10 years and three months in federal prison, which was at the bottom of the advisory guideline range.
A jury in April convicted Sanders of robbery of a motor vehicle, aiding and abetting in the robbery, using a firearm during a crime of violence, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Cipparone sought a sentence of five years, which was below the advisory guideline range. "Essentially, he put himself in his own prison of blindness," Cipparone said of his client, contending he is already suffering and will suffer for the rest of his life.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Boden sought 11 1/2 years for Sanders, which was at the top of the guideline range.
One of Sanders' two accomplices in the robbery was Chancier McFarland, 22, who pleaded guilty last year in this case. McFarland is one of the two men who robbed and killed off-duty Police Officer Moses Walker Jr. on Aug. 18, 2012, in North Philly.
In Walker's slaying, McFarland had pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy. Under a plea deal, he is to be sentenced in Common Pleas Court to 20 to 40 years in prison.
In the federal case, at about 9 p.m. June 26, 2011, Sanders, McFarland and a third man drove to Green Street near 40th in Powelton. As part of the robbery plan, the third man responded to a Craigslist ad to buy a Suzuki dirt bike and agreed to meet the seller on Green Street. McFarland acted as a lookout as Sanders and the third man approached the seller.
After the third man pretended to inspect the dirt bike on the porch of a home, Sanders drew a gun from his waistband and pointed it at the seller and two of the seller's relatives. Sanders' co-conspirator, who was inspecting the bike, then drove it away.
Meanwhile, another relative of the seller saw what was going on and took out his legally owned firearm and pointed it at Sanders, telling him to stop.
Sanders instead pointed his gun at that man, who then fired in self-defense, hitting Sanders in the right temple. After Sanders collapsed, the man who shot him called police.
Sanders on Monday apologized to the robbery victim and his family, who were not in court. He said he didn't want them to feel any guilt for his being blind.
"This situation turned out for my good because it led to my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ," Sanders told the judge.
He said he would accept any sentence imposed by the judge.
In addition to his prison term, Sanders was ordered to pay $1,400 in restitution.
Boden noted that Sanders, when he had his gun pointed at the victims, had the gun's hammer cocked and could easily have fired it.
He also told the judge that Sanders will not be the first blind inmate in the federal prison system, which now has about 735 visually impaired inmates and about 45 who are legally blind.
Boden also told the judge that Sanders has a prior state case that involved a violent scuffle with a Philly cop. In 2010, when Sanders was being arrested for marijuana possession, he grabbed the wire cord of the cop's radio and wrapped it around the officer's neck, suffocating him. It wasn't until the officer was able to grab his gun that Sanders stopped suffocating him and fled.
A federal grand jury had previously indicted a man named Jerome Jones as the third man involved in the dirt-bike robbery.
In February, the government withdrew the indictment against him. Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlene Fisk said after the hearing on Monday that she could not comment on the reasons for the withdrawal of the charges against Jones.
In court, she told the judge that Sanders has "steadfastly refused" to identify to law enforcement who his accomplices were.
Jones is the brother of Rafael Jones. Rafael Jones, 26, was McFarland's accomplice in the robbery and shooting death of Officer Walker. He was sentenced in June in Common Pleas Court to life in prison without parole in Walker's shooting after having been convicted of first-degree murder after a nonjury trial.
McFarland still awaits sentencing in his federal and state cases.