The four men crowded close to a 23-year-old, sitting on the Red Line Metro train during the evening rush hour as it headed into the Wheaton station. They suddenly grabbed him, punched him, and yanked credit cards from his pocket as horrified passengers looked on.
The crew then boarded a Metro bus, where they crowded up to a 27-year-old dishwasher, heading home from his restaurant job. They hit him, locked his neck in a chokehold, stole his iPhone, and walked off at the next stop.
"You didn't care. You could have cared less. I saw you on the video," Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl McCally told two of the robbers in her courtroom on Tuesday.
She spoke about the surveillance recordings in the train and bus, captured on April 16, and what they showed: "Thugs, running around terrorizing people."
At issue was how much prison time to give Marcus James Lee, 22, and Antwan D. Haynie, 19, both of the District, who'd earlier pleaded guilty to robbery charges in the cases. As part of those pleas, prosecutors had agreed to limit prison time to six years for Lee and seven years for Haynie.
And that's what McCally gave them. She also imposed five years of probation upon their release, warning them if they violated probation terms they'd be subject to the imposition of more than 20 years of backup time hanging over the heads.
McCally earlier had imposed a similar sentence for Martrail Cunningham, 19, also of the District. The fourth member of the crew arrested was a juvenile, whose name has been withheld by authorities.
"People have a right to use public transportation and not be fearful," McCally said.
One of the prosecutors in the case, Montgomery County Assistant State's Attorney Lauren Turner, said the other passengers' reactions on the train and bus were telling. They made subtle movements as if to help, but didn't get too close — fearing the assailants may have turned on them or been armed.
"They appear to be kind of paralyzed in fear," Turner said. "That's telling."
She indicated that strong-arm robberies carried out by groups are rising in Montgomery County.
"It's a scary trend, I think, that is happening --- these pack robberies," Turner said, adding the robbers include Montgomery residents and those from elsewhere. "It's something that is terrifying to members of this community who are simply trying to go on about their daily life."
On April 17, the day after the robberies, Metro Transit Police released a different video of the Red Line robbery. The assailants' four faces could be seen. Metro asked for, and received, help from the public in identifying them.
According to arrest records, one of the suspects who approached the victim took a seat next to him — and told him to give up his cell phone and its password or "this won't end well for you."
The victim kept his phone and held on to it as he was struck in the head and face. The attackers were able to get the credit cards, according to court records. The victim was taken to a hospital, and received stitches to close a wound above one of his eyes.
In court Tuesday, McCally read a brief statement the victim had sent to the court:
"This crime I fell victim to caused a considerable amount of stress and anxiety in my life," the judge said, quoting the victim's statement. "It has left a permanent scar on my face. It has hindered me from taking Metro alone, which I have ridden all the time to go to work, meet family, friends, etc."
That victim was not in court on Tuesday. The second victim, who'd been riding the bus, came to court.
In an interview afterword, the 27-year-old asked to not be identified — saying he does not want acquaintances of the suspects to know who he is, and doesn't want family members to know what happened to him.
He said the attack left him without a phone and too scared to ride on buses, causing him to lose his dishwasher job. He said he has since gotten a construction job.
"I thought the were going to kill me," he said, "because they held me that tight."
Correction: This file has been updated to show the correct spelling of the name of Antwan Haynie.