Lawson sentence to life for kidnapping, rape

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The man convicted of kidnapping a woman from Uptown, raping her and driving her to a remote Washington County location was sentenced to life in prison without parole, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Deonte Lawson, 24, of Minneapolis, was found guilty by a jury of two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct one through fear of great bodily harm, and the other through force with an accomplice and one count of kidnapping.  He had been indicted by a grand jury under state statutes that allow for the life sentence for particularly heinous sex crimes or a pattern of sex crimes.

Lawson’s trial lasted two weeks and the jury returned the guilty verdicts May 9 after just three hours of deliberation. The jury also found that county attorney prosecutors had proven the three heinous elements of using a weapon, multiple defendants committing sexual penetration and that he kidnapped the victim without releasing her in a safe place.

At Thursday’s sentencing, the victim impact statement written by the young woman Lawson attacked was read by a victim advocate of the county attorney’s office. She detailed the damage Lawson had caused her including taking away her drive and outgoing personality and replacing it with anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome and other physical and emotional scars. She told the judge to give him the maximum penalty.

“I am smarter, braver and stronger than Mr. Lawson ever counted on,” she wrote in her statement. “I am a survivor. And I know I am not his first victim, but I am going to make damn sure I am his last. Mr. Lawson is nothing more than a monster. I looked him in the eyes during my testimony and I saw the cold, evil, lifelessness I remember seeing in Oct. 2017.”

According to the criminal complaint and testimony in the trial, the victim was retrieving something from the trunk of her car late on the night of Oct. 15 or early the morning of Oct. 16, 2017 when Lawson, Darius Freeman and Wayne Armstrong forced her into the back seat of the car at gunpoint. They also took her credit cards.

Then they took her to a secluded wooded area and each defendant sexually assaulted her. They then dragged her back into her car and drove east to Washington County. The woman made numerous attempts to convince her attackers to release her but they refused.

Because they were driving her away from Minneapolis and in a rural area, the woman feared they were going to kill her. She told the driver that they had to stop for gas because there wasn’t enough to get them back to Minneapolis. They pulled into a station on Manning Trail North in Scandia and she managed to escape and run from the car, around the gas station and climb the stairs to an apartment above the gas station where she awoke the residents by shouting for help. One of her captors searched for her but gave up and the three men drove away.

The DNA of Lawson, Armstrong and Freeman connected them to the crime.

Armstrong, who was 17 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Lawson, but was not called. He will be sentenced as an adult Friday and is expected to get 144 months in prison. Freeman, who was 16 at the time, also pleaded guilty and did testify against Lawson. He will be sentenced at the end of the month and also will receive 144 months.