Wisconsin treats all 17-year-olds as adults if they commit crimes.
That law applied to a Janesville teen who orchestrated two armed robberies and another strong-armed robbery and was sentenced to prison and probation in Rock County Court on Friday
Tyler D. Kjell of 2531 S. River Road, Janesville, was 17 when he committed armed robberies of the Dollar General at 2200 W. Court St. on Sept. 26, 2018, and the Subway restaurant at 1929 Center Ave. on March 28, 2019.
He was 18 when he committed the strong-armed robbery on July 21, 2019. That case was dismissed but included in the record for sentencing.
Kjell recruited accomplices in all three cases, but he was the leader, and that makes his crimes all the scarier, Judge Karl Hanson said.
Hanson sentenced Kjell to five years in prison and five years of extended supervision for the Subway robbery.
Hanson sentenced Kjell to another five years of prison and five years of supervision for the Dollar General robbery, but he stayed the sentence and placed Kjell on five years of probation, which will follow the 10 years of prison and supervision.
If Kjell commits more crimes, he would be liable for the second prison sentence.
Defense attorney Matthew Lantta argued for a lighter sentence because of Kjell’s age.
Lantta noted that the criminal justice system has accepted the science suggesting that brains don’t mature until age 25.
“He was a child,” Lantta said, adding that Wisconsin is one of the few states that prosecutes 17-year-olds as adults.
Lantta cited the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and U.S. Supreme Court rulings that draw lines between adults and juveniles.
Lantta noted that if sentenced to prison, Kjell likely will be exposed to people who could lure him further into criminality.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Jahnke called Kjell’s conduct “extremely concerning” and said Kjell had extensive contacts with the juvenile justice system.
Jahnke said he couldn’t understand what drove Kjell to committee the robberies, but he noted a psychological evaluation found depression, anxiety and attention-deficit disorder.
The guns used in the robberies were airsoft guns.
“I’m sure it looked extremely real to the people Mr. Kjell confronted at Subway and the Dollar General store,” Jahnke said.
Kjell’s mother wrote to the court that Kjell was a good student but fell in with the wrong crowd, meeting some of those bad influences while in juvenile detention. She said he has learned his lesson.
Hanson’s sentence was not as long as that recommended by the Department of Corrections: 12 years in prison plus six to eight years of supervision. Lantta called the recommendation shocking and said it exceeded the department’s own guidelines.
Hanson said Kjell’s actions show he was thinking only of his own desires, which included marijuana and impressing his friends.
“It is alarming to see someone so young making such selfish decisions,” Hanson said.
Hanson gave Kjell 249 days credit for the time he has spent in jail. Hanson made him eligible for prison rehabilitation programs that could shorten his sentence but required him to serve three years before entering those programs.