One of two men who reportedly robbed Aiken gas stations at gunpoint and then were chased by police onto the Savannah River Site pleaded guilty Thursday, but his sentence is yet to be handed down.
Brandon Marsalis Wilson, 18, of Old Town Road in Aiken, admitted to holding up two Kangaroo Express gas stations inside Aiken where he stole cash and cartons of Newport cigarettes.
Wilson was not sentenced Thursday because he is to give a full debrief to the Aiken Department of Public Safety, cooperate in the prosecution of his getaway driver, Carl Donte Johnson, 21, and possibly testify at his trial, Second Circuit Solicitor Strom Thurmond said.
If he cooperates fully and honestly, the “state may move for a downward departure,” at sentencing, Thurmond said. A downward departure is a term used most-often in federal court where a defendant can earn a lower sentence based on cooperation, good behavior or accepting responsibility for their crime.
The crimes happened between 2 and 4 a.m. on July 6 last year. Wilson used a black semi-automatic handgun to rob two gas stations, stealing the money drawer from both registers and cigarettes from one of the stores.
After fleeing the second robbery, the pair were spotted driving in a vehicle without working headlights.
Riding in a light-colored PT Cruiser, they reached speeds of 80 mph in a residential area and speeds in excess of 100 mph en route to SRS. The chase began in Aiken, but headed outside of town on Silver Bluff Road and onto Atomic Road.
At the security gates of SRS, the car crashed through the barricades and proceeded for several miles inside the high-security nuclear weapons complex site.
“As far as a police chase, this is about as aggravated as it gets,” Thurmond said.
The pair reached F-area in the site – the home of millions of gallons of highly-radioactive liquid waste, among other thing – before they bolted from the car.
One suspect was apprehended while on foot, the other when he attempted to enter a building.
The Department of Energy, who owns SRS, has a contract with WSI-Savannah River, formerly Wackenhut, for a military-like protective security force to be deployed. WSI-SR were not mentioned in court Thursday, nor in case records. ADPS Detective William Royster is the only law enforcement member listed in documents.
The armed robbery offenses are classified as most serious and violent under South Carolina law, meaning the defendants will serve at-least 85 percent of whatever sentence he receives. Wilson is facing a 10-year mandatory minimum and a maximum of 30 years, for both counts.