Daniel B. Harden was sentenced Tuesday to 40-44 years in prison for his conviction on conspiracy to commit the robbery that led to the death of a 19-year-old Hastings man in 2017.
Adams County District Judge Terri Harder sentenced Harden, 23, of Hastings in Adams County District Court. Harden will be eligible for probation after 20 years, and his sentence with maximum good time would be 22 years.
The courtroom was nearly full as family and friends of both Harden and the dead man, Jose “Joey” Hansen, as well as other spectators, attended the hearing.
Upon hearing the sentence, one of Harden’s supporters shouted out to the judge that her decision “wasn’t justice.” Deputies removed the woman from the courtroom for disrupting the court, as well as another woman who had called out against the hefty sentence.
A jury convicted Harden on Nov. 4, 2019, of conspiracy to commit robbery, a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison. The jury also found Harden not guilty of two other charges in the trial: first-degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony.
Corey O’Brien with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office asked the judge for a lengthy prison sentence. He said Harden’s choices of drug abuse and his friends led to the robbery that caused Hansen’s death.
“He made a choice,” O’Brien said. “This was a lifestyle he wanted to live.”
Prosecutors say Harden was among a group of people who conspired to rob Hansen in the early morning hours of Sept. 11, 2017. Harden, Deante Mullen and Deonte Hayes allegedly agreed to participate, but Hayes became ill from excess drugs and alcohol and stayed behind.
Mullen had testified during Harden’s trial that he had set up the deal with Hansen, planning to rob him. Mullen owned the gun that was used and was the driver of the vehicle where Hansen was shot. But he claimed Harden pointed the gun at Hansen while he sat in the back seat of the vehicle and accidentally pulled the trigger as Hansen ran from the vehicle.
Harden testified in his defense at trial. He said after Hayes had gotten sick and threw up, he decided to walk home — sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. He said he didn’t find out about the shooting until Mullen asked him to come over to his house and told him about it.
But O’Brien argued that even after Harden learned of the murder, he continued to associate with Mullen. Instead of staying away from someone he believed to be involved in a murder, Harden went to Lincoln with Mullen and the group of friends. And when police knocked at Harden’s door, he told police he didn’t know anything about the incident. O’Brien said that showed Harden had no desire to change at the time.
“This event wasn’t a good enough wake-up call for him,” O’Brien said. “We see little that indicates he changed his mindset.”
Defense attorney Clarence Mock argued that Harden already had spent two years in jail awaiting trial. He reminded the judge that the jury only convicted Harden of conspiracy in the robbery, not that he had any involvement in the murder itself.
Mock explained that Harden was a drug addict at the time and heavily involved in the drug culture, which led to his poor decision to not cooperate with police in the investigation.
“It is unfortunate that he didn’t tell officers what he knew,” Mock said. “That doesn’t mean he had anything to do with what happened in the early morning hours on G Street.”
Mock said Hayes was more involved in the conspiracy to find someone to rob than Harden, but prosecutors declined to charge him with any criminal activity.
Arguing that Harden’s only involvement was some talk of a robbery, Mock asked the judge to consider a sentence of time served. Mock pointed to steps Harden took to improve himself after his arrest, including renewing his faith and studying for his ACT test. If the judge didn’t feel that was sufficient, he said, Harden would be better rehabilitated with probation, which could help him continue his journey to become a more productive member of society. He said a prison sentence would only make it more likely that Harden would turn to a life of crime.
“Two years with 110 days in solitary confinement is enough for that charge,” Mock said. “He’s been severely punished for what he did.”
While rehabilitation is one of the aspects that can be considered in a sentence, Judge Harder said her decision in this sentence was based on the public safety and deterrence against future criminal activity.
“I wish that the epiphany for what you wanted your life to look like would have happened before,” she said. “I hope your efforts are sincere, but I am skeptical.”