Sasha Gaskins testifies in burglary trial that she feared for her life
A woman who helped three men, including two former Citadel football players, burglarize two apartments last year testified Thursday that she did it because she feared for her life.
Sasha Gaskins, 19, a former College of Charleston student from Clinton, faces two counts of first-degree burglary and armed robbery. The burglaries took place three days apart in February 2010.
Gaskins admitted faking car trouble to get in the door of two apartments, including one occupied by former Citadel assistant football coach Joshua Harpe, so Miguel Starks and Reggie Rice could get in, tie up the owners with duct tape and loot the apartments.
Starks, 20, of Ashley Crossing Drive, was a Citadel quarterback who had recently been suspended for bad grades. Rice, 23, also of Ashley Crossing Drive, was a former linebacker.
Gaskins said she participated because she was afraid Starks would kill her otherwise. She testified in Charleston County Circuit Court that Starks showed her a gun and told her, "Don't mess this up or I'll kill you."
"I was just scared," she said. "I was definitely afraid for my life."
The prosecution challenged Gaskins' version of events, saying she had plenty of opportunities to get away, if Starks even threatened her at all.
"The truth of the matter is Miguel never threatened you, did he?" Assistant Solicitor Culver Kidd asked. "You entered into these crimes willingly, didn't you?"
Defense attorney Kenneth Southerlin, of Greer, called on L. Randolph Waid, a forensic psychologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, to explain how fear can cause a person with good character to commit a crime.
Ward said that when a person perceives a deadly threat, committing a crime can be "choosing the lesser evil."
Southerlin also brought forward several people who have known Gaskins for years as character witnesses. They uniformly described her as intelligent, honest, a good student and a church choir member.
Sa'Datrius Alston, 19, a Charleston Southern University student who grew up with Gaskins, said she can't imagine her being involved in a crime.
"Sasha's one of the best people I've known," she said.
Assistant Solicitor Dale Savage asked how well the witnesses had kept up with Gaskins since she went off to college and got mixed up with the men accused in the crimes.
Harpe was also called to the witness stand Thursday. He said he thought he was going to be killed when Starks and Rice forced him to his knees, bound him with duct tape and put guns to his head.
He said one of them told him, "Now would be the time to start praying."
"I understood it to mean they were about to shoot me in the back of the head," he said.
Stephen Francois, 21, of Fairburn, Ga., who was Gaskins' boyfriend at the college, also helped loot the apartments.
Francois, Starks and Rice 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 for assaulting a woman in one of the apartments. The three men have not yet been sentenced.
Breanna Bruster, 19, of Greenville, also a former College of Charleston student, also was with the group when the apartments were robbed. She pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery and also has not yet been sentenced.
The attorneys are scheduled to present closing arguments in the Gaskins trial at 9 a.m. today.