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Boston English athlete sentenced to prison

By Bob Hohler
Globe Staff / July 9, 2010

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DEDHAM -- Betrayed by his violent past, a prized student-athlete who appeared bound for a college basketball career after he graduated last month from Boston English High School was sentenced today to two to three years in state prison for an armed robbery he committed before he turned his life around.

With his supporters and relatives weeping in the court room, Alex DoSouto was led away in handcuffs and leg irons to begin his sentence at MCI-Cedar Junction in Walpole. He was convicted last month of helping three accomplices rob a Chinese immigrant in Quincy of $50 in February 2008.

Norfolk Superior Court Judge Janet L. Sanders acknowledged DoSouto's reformation since he quit the street life after he was shot in the leg in the spring of 2009. She said she was "very moved" by four of DoSouto's supporters, including English headmaster Sito Narcisse, who asked her to grant him probation so he could continue his education.

But she ruled that DoSouto's crime warranted a substantial prison term. She cited him as the presumed leader of a group that wielded a BB pistol and threatened to harm several victims during a nighttime robbery spree.

"The fact was that for several years he was running with a very bad group of people and was convicted of a serious crime, and he will have to pay for it," Sanders said.

The only victory for DoSouto was that he received less than the five to seven years in prison requested by the Norfolk district attorney's office.

DoSouto, 20, who was raised in the Cape Verdean gang culture in Dorchester, began running the streets after his older brother, Luis, was shot and killed in front of the family's home in 2006. Alex DoSouto dropped out of school and spent months in jail on bail violations and pretrial detention before he became the fourth brother in his family shot on the streets of Dorchester.

"This man lived in a war zone," DoSouto's lawyer, Paul P. Hayes Jr., said in asking the judge to grant DoSouto probation on the condition he leave his Dorchester neighborhood.

DoSouto's own gunshot wound prompted him to seek help from a street worker, Anthony Robinson, who steered him back to school. At English, DoSouto became a model student, tutor, and mentor, as well as the most valuable player and cocaptain of the tournament-caliber basketball team. He was accepted by several colleges and planned to leave next month for Potomac State College in West Virginia.

DoSouto expected to improve his academic credentials at Potomac State and transfer to a Division 1 basketball program at North Carolina A&T.

"Alex hasn't just been saying he's going to change," Narcisse told the judge. "He has been consistent in showing that he has changed."

The others who appealed to Sanders for DoSouto's release were Anthony Robinson, English basketball coach Barry Robinson, and the team's academic coach, Rene Patten. DoSouto had served as an example of how the new Boston Scholar Athlete Program could help the schools and anti-violence groups save high-risk youths from the streets.

A number of workers from the Boston Foundation's StreetSafe program also attended the sentencing to support DoSouto’s bid for probation. DoSouto is one of 10 children, several of whom have been known by the police and street workers as figures in the Cape Verdean gang culture.

"I just hope the judge gives me a chance," DoSouto said last week at the Norfolk House of Correction. "I'm sure everybody thinks I'm going to mess up again, but I want to prove them all wrong."

The armed robbery was DoSouto's first criminal conviction, but Sanders said he needed to pay for committing "random acts of violence against completely innocent, very vulnerable people.";

The victim chose not to attend the sentencing, but the judge cited his courage in delivering emotional testimony through a translator during the weeklong trial.

While the judge concluded that granting DoSouto probation would be "completely inappropriate," she cast the prison sentence as a chance for him to continue chasing his college dream.

"I don't intend to derail Mr. DoSouto's life entirely," Sanders said. "I do hope that he goes on to college. I do hope that his future is bright and that he continues the progress he has made, and I don't intend to do anything today which would make that impossible."

DoSouto's supporters were bitterly disappointed.

"We know prison doesn't reform people, education reforms people," Narcisse said. "The judge used the word 'derail', and this does derail him, no matter how she wants to frame it. I just hope Alex stays focused and stays alive."

DoSouto served nine months in jail before the sentencing, which means he will be eligible for parole in October 2011. Several family members said they expect him to pursue his college plans after his release.

Bob Hohler can be reached at hohler@globe.com.

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