SARASOTA COUNTY -- Kristin Gabriellini was either an overwhelmed mother who has taken responsibility for her actions and did not deserve to go back to jail, or the accomplice in a botched drugstore robbery who should receive four years in prison.
A judge split the difference.
The 47-year-old Port Charlotte woman, who was in the getaway vehicle during a Sarasota Walgreens robbery last year that left one man dead, stood silently Thursday as 12th Circuit Judge Becky Titus sentenced her to two years in prison, with credit for time served -- one year -- plus five years probation.
Though she was considered to be involved in the robbery, Gabriellini did not handle or fire a gun. Police fatally shot her friend, 22-year-old Zachary Mathes, on Jan. 19, 2010, while he was robbing the store at 3535 N. Tamiami Trail. Brandishing Gabriellini’s husband’s 9 mm handgun, Mathes demanded the pharmacist give him OxyContin and Dilaudid. A customer called 911, and nearby city police quickly responded. Meanwhile, Gabriellini was waiting for Mathes in her Dodge Durango.
Court documents state that Gabriellini told Sarasota Police Department investigators several versions of her whereabouts on the morning of the incident. She originally was let go after telling officers she was at the store to purchase makeup, but was later charged with Mathes’ murder and robbery with a firearm.
According to Florida law, when a person helps commit a crime that results in a death, he can be charged with murder. Gabriellini took a plea deal earlier this year, and the state dropped the homicide charge after she pleaded guilty to the robbery/firearm charge.
Such a violent felony, under Florida law, carries a sentence of at least 10 years in prison. However, the shorter sentence was not unexpected. Gabriellini, who previously did not have a criminal record in Charlotte or Sarasota counties, served a year in jail before she was released and placed on community control in January of this year.
At the Sarasota County Courthouse, Assistant State Attorney Craig Schaeffer asked for a four-year prison sentence, arguing that “This is not a typical robbery. Somebody did die.” He added that Gabriellini “continues to lie. She’s almost pathological.”
Titus heard from Gabriellini’s daughter, Marie, and Courtney Mathes, Zachary’s sister.
Marie Gabriellini spoke about her difficulty working, attending school and taking care of her disabled father and two teenage brothers when her mother was in jail.
Asked about the possibility of her mother going to prison, Marie, crying, said, “I’m only 24. I really need my mom to help me out. I can’t do this alone.”
Mathes, according to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, was a suspect in a 2009 robbery of a CVS on Kings Highway, a case that’s now closed. Gabriellini said she knew Mathes had robbed other pharmacies, a report shows.
Gabriellini’s attorney, Chief Assistant Public Defender Stephen Watson, said it was a hard case for Titus.
“A young man was killed and she ended up pleading (guilty),” he said.
“Quite frankly, I think the judge gave her a fair sentence. She’s already got a year in, and as far as her getting out and doing the probation, I think she’s going to do fine.
“If she had gone to trial on the two counts, she was looking at life (in prison), if she got convicted.”