Gang initiation victim pushes for stricter sentencing

Florence, SC - By Brandon Herring - bio | email

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – A man who was attacked by gang members in Florence says he is glad all of them are being punished, but he would like to see stricter sentences.

In January 2008, Kenneth Dye was delivering a pizza to a home on Stickley Street in Florence when four teenagers inside the home attacked him and forced him back into his car. They took him to a field off Douglas Street, beat and robbed him and then one of them shot him in the back. The group of four left him for dead.

Investigators said the teenagers planned the whole thing as a way to increase their rank in a gang.

Dye survived the attack, and Monday he witnessed the sentencing of two people involved.

One of the attackers pled guilty on Monday, while the three others were juveniles who were sentenced previously.

The other person who pled guilty on Monday was not one of the attackers. Instead he was the man charged with encouraging the teens to commit the gang-related crimes.

Nicholas Freeman originally pleaded not guilty and planned to defend himself in a trial Monday, but he changed his plea to guilty just before the trial was scheduled to begin.

Freeman was the first person in the 12th Judicial Circuit to be charged under the South Carolina Gang Prevention Act that was passed in 2008. The law holds people accountable for recruiting gang members or ordering them to commit crimes, even if they do not participate in the crimes themselves.

Freeman was sentenced on three charges that resulted in a 10-year prison sentence.

Dye thinks gang-related criminals should face harsher punishment standards. He says gangs instill fear in neighborhoods and they should be treated like domestic terror organizations.

"If they had done what they did under the auspices of Islamic fundamentalism, this would have been a national story. They would have all gotten life in prison," Dye said. "The FBI, the NSA, the Department of Homeland Security if it still exists, all these government agencies would be on it looking [out] for their friends. As it is, they get a comparative slap on the wrist."

Dye said he is still recovering from the physical and emotional scars of the attack, but he is glad the judicial part is behind him. He now urges parents to get more involved in their children's lives and law makers to tackle punishment standards for gang-related crimes.

"I just think that politicians are ignoring the problem to a large extent," Dye said. "You don't really hear anything out of politicians about gangs. You do occasionally, but it's not being addressed by our so-called leaders the way it should be. It's an epidemic."

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