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A homeless man with a lengthy criminal record was sentenced today to life in prison for his convictions on five felony counts for holding a nurse hostage at gunpoint at Children’s Hospital in Oakland two years ago. Cottrell Broadnax, 51, was convicted of false imprisonment, assault with a firearm, being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a loaded firearm and possession of a controlled substance. Broadnax’s attorney, Alameda County Deputy Public Defender Sachiel Slavin, had raised questions about his mental competency to stand trial, but in a separate trial, a jury found him to be competent.
Broadnax chose not to appear in court during both the guilt and competency phases of his trial, and Superior Court Judge Vernon Nakahara threw him out of court today after he acted up. Nakahara said, “It’s clear to me that he’s not a stupid person.” He said Broadnax’s mental capacity “is not an issue in this case.” Oakland police said officers responded to Children’s Hospital at about 3:30 a.m. on July 30, 2010, after receiving a report that Broadnax was armed and holding a nurse hostage. Broadnax surrendered after police formed a perimeter of patrol rifle officers. No one was injured in the confrontation. Hospital spokeswoman Erin Goldsmith said that when Broadnax entered the hospital, he appeared to be disturbed or disoriented but did not have his gun drawn as he strode past the trauma center’s front desk.
Goldsmith said only eight minutes elapsed between the time Broadnax entered the emergency room and the time Oakland police took him into custody. In addition to finding Broadnax guilty of the five felony counts, jurors found that he had 12 prior felony convictions for offenses including robbery, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. Slavin asked Nakahara today to dismiss Broadnax’s prior convictions so he would be eligible for a lighter sentence. But Nakahara refused to do so, saying, “This is the kind of case and defendant that the Three Strikes Law wanted to address.”
The judge was referring to a law approved by California legislators in 1994 that requires courts to impose a life sentence on persons who have been convicted of three or more serious criminal offenses. Prosecutor Luis Marin said he thinks Broadnax should be given a life term because he has been in and out of prison since 1980 for a series of violent offenses. “It’s time to take him off the streets,” Marin said. Nakahara sentenced Broadnax to 335 years to life in state prison.
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