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February 19, 2014

Community justice advocate Nelson Hopkins Sr. appeals conviction for third robbery

His lawyers say the court should have allowed him to make a statement at his sentencing hearing. A Jackson County Circuit Court judge sentenced Hopkins to two 20-year prison terms, to run concurrently.

A community justice advocate convicted of his third robbery should have been allowed to make a statement at his sentencing hearing.

That’s the contention of lawyers appealing the 2012 conviction of Nelson Hopkins Sr. following his robbery of a Blue Springs pizza store.

Missouri appellate court justices heard Hopkins’ appeal Wednesday at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Hopkins pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree robbery. Because of Hopkins’ two previous robbery convictions, the court considered him a “prior and persistent offender.”

A Jackson County Circuit Court judge sentenced Hopkins to two 20-year prison terms, to run concurrently.

Hopkins’ written appeal maintained the court should have allowed him to make a statement during the hearing, adding that he deserves to be resentenced.

“That is the ultimate goal, to get Mr. Hopkins back to sentencing,” Damien de Loyola, representing Hopkins, told three judges Wednesday.

Shaun Mackelprang, assistant Missouri attorney general, disagreed. Errors in sentencing, he had written, should have been brought to the court’s attention during the hearing. Hopkins, Mackelprang said Wednesday, “is supporting an overhaul of Missouri criminal code for no good reason.”

Hopkins had founded a business helping inmates prepare parole plans. He robbed the pizza store in June 2011.

Hopkins has explained the robbery as the culmination of several factors, including depression following the unsolved 2009 murder of his 17-year-old son, Nelson Hopkins Jr.

The court should render its opinion within 60 days, said Cindy Martin, Missouri Court of Appeals Western District judge.

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