Trial begins for suspect in break-ins; woman accused of helping 2 ex-Citadel football players
A woman accused of helping three men, including two former Citadel football players, burglarize two apartments last year is on trial this week.
Sasha Gaskins, 19, of Clinton, faces two counts of burglary and armed robbery. The burglaries took place three days apart in February 2010.
She is accused of faking car trouble to get in the door of two apartments so Reggie Rice, Miguel Starks and Stephen Francois could get in, tie up the owners with duct tape and loot them.
Starks, 20, of Ashley Crossing Drive, was a Citadel quarterback who was on suspension for bad grades. Rice, 23, also of Ashley Crossing Drive, also had played for the team.
The victim in the second burglary was former Citadel assistant football coach Joshua Harpe, who is scheduled to testify today.
The target of the first burglary was former Citadel cadet Herbert Butler. A woman in the apartment was sexually assaulted.
Francois, 21, of Fairburn, Ga., was a student at the College of Charleston. He and Gaskins lived together, according to testimony.
The three men pleaded guilty in January to kidnapping, first-degree burglary, armed robbery and possession of a firearm during a violent crime. Starks also pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The three men have not yet been sentenced.
The most dramatic part of today's proceedings centered around the testimony of another student who was involved in the crimes but has not yet gone to trial.
Breanna Bruster, 19, of Greenville, was Gaskins' friend at the College of Charleston and accompanied the group to the two apartments that were robbed, according to her testimony today.
She is cooperating with the solicitor's office, hoping for the minimum sentence for armed robbery. The prosecutors are Assistant Solicitors Culver Kidd and Dale Savage.
Bruster described Gaskins as key to both robberies. Gaskins knocked on the door of Butler's apartment to get in the door, and she called Harpe from a pay phone to get him to come out and let them in, Bruster said.
Gaskins also coached Starks when he was trying to get money out of ATMs with stolen cards after the burglaries, Bruster said.
Defense attorney Kenneth Southerlin of Greer argued that Gaskins thought the men were only joking. He also asserted that Bruster was a "jailbird snitch," trying to make Gaskins look bad just to get a lighter sentence.
Circuit Judge Deadra Jefferson repeatedly admonished Southerlin to ask questions in the proper format.
Bruster said she never went into either apartment but waited outside when Gaskins went in. Southerlin attacked Bruster's credibility by pointing out alleged discrepancies between what she told police a year ago and what she could recall on the stand.
In separate testimony, the woman at Butler's apartment described the horror she experienced the night of Feb. 24, 2010, the first robbery.
She said Gaskins knocked at her door asking to use her phone because of car trouble, then stepped inside to clear the way for two men who burst in with masks and guns, bound her and Butler with duct tape, including her eyes, and looted the place.
The victim also said one of the men forced her to perform oral sex while she was bound. She said she later heard the voice of a third man in the apartment. Near the end of the ordeal, she said she heard a female voice asking the men if they wanted her to carry something out to the car.
Southerlin argued that there's no indication that Gaskins stayed inside the apartment after she let the men in and did not witness the sexual assault.
The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. today. It is not expected to go to the jury before Friday.