Teenage Thugs who Targeted Canisius College Students Brought to Justice

Modified: February 19, 2015 1:04pm

12/10/2014

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita, III announces that 16 year-old Tazja Robinson, 16 year-old Aarona Wardlaw, 15 year-old Imia Atkinson, and 15 year-old Carlise Harris pleaded guilty as charged, to Robbery in the Second Degree, while and 14 year-old Ty’wuan McDuffie pleaded guilty as charged to Robbery in the Second Degree and Attempted Robbery in the Second Degree, before Erie County Court Judge Thomas P. Franczyk.  These are the highest charges for which the defendants could have been convicted had they gone to trial. In other words, none of these hoodlums received a so-called “plea bargain” and were instead prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

On April 22, 2014, the defendants attacked on two Canisius College students as they were walking from the Koessler Athletic Center to their class in the Science Building.  The first victim was knocked to the ground and punched and kicked repeatedly, while her cellphone was stolen; the defendants also attempted to steal the shoes off her feet. The second victim was chased by defendant McDuffie and thrown to the ground but McDuffie fled before he could steal property from her. The apparent motive was not merely theft, but also violence perpetrated upon innocent victims for the sake of violence itself. 

Lt. John Hatch and Officer Amanda Summer, working under the direction of Canisus College Public Safety Chief Gary Everett, were instrumental in ascertaining the identity of the defendants through video obtained from surveillance cameras on Canisius College Campus and the subway station located at Delevan and Main Street. 

Robinson faces up to fifteen years in state prison when she is sentenced on February 3, 2014. Due to their ages, Atkinson, Harris, Wardlaw and McDuffie only face a maximum sentence of seven years.  Harris will be sentenced on February 4, 2014 and Wardlaw, Atkinson and McDuffie will be sentenced on March 9, 2014. All of the defendants will be sentenced by Judge Franczyk. 

The case was successfully prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney John Patrick Feroleto, who is assigned to DA Sedita’s Tactical Prosecution Unit.

DA Sedita stated: “This case was again shows the danger of increasing the age of criminal responsibility, thus permitting criminals being “adjudicated” in the Family Court system, where “the child’s best interests are paramount.”   Instead, under current law, the defendants were prosecuted, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, in the criminal court system.”