By Marc Freeman
Here was the strange scene Monday in a Palm Beach County courtroom: One by one, veteran prosecutors and detectives took turns standing up for an admitted killer at his sentencing.
They wanted the judge to know that Frederick Cobia, who pistol-whipped and shot a man to death during a 2009 home invasion robbery, became a trusted ally in their efforts to put away numerous other dangerous criminals.
The 47-year-old Cobia was their favorite jailhouse snitch, who served as a key witness for prosecutors in nearly two dozen cases over the past decade. They said Cobia, a repeat violent felon from Belle Glade, deserved leniency rather than the maximum penalty of life in prison.
“I don’t know if I’ve encountered anything like this in my 30 years,” Circuit Judge Joseph Marx said, before announcing a 40-year sentence for Cobia. “It’s a bizarre situation.”
The judge said he changed his mind three times while he listened to the prosecutors and cops sing Cobia’s praises, and Cobia stand and apologize, and the family of South Bay victim Desmond Dunkley condemn Cobia and ask for the most severe punishment.
Cobia’s attorney, Valerie Masters, requested a 10-year-sentence that would set him free rather than risk his safety in a prison. The defense argued that there is not one prison in Florida where Cobia could go without running into someone he helped to convict.
“Extraordinary cooperation deserves extraordinary mitigation,” Masters said, noting how Cobia has been stuck in an isolated jail cell for nearly a decade because of his risky work for prosecutors and detectives.
Assistant State Attorney Jill Richstone asked for a “fair” sentence of 30 to 35 years, breaking from the Dunkley family’s wishes. She explained that while Cobia is a career criminal who committed a “savage murder” she wanted to give Cobia some credit.
“He certainly has cooperated more extensively that anyone the State Attorney’s Office has seen by far,” Richstone said.
It’s been more than seven years since Cobia pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and home-invasion robbery charges in the brutal attack on Dunkley, 57, who was from Jamaica and had the nickname “Luchie.”
Cobia’s sentencing was repeatedly delayed because of his continuing partnership with prosecutors.
Cobia on Monday said he “couldn’t justify my existence on the planet” had he not aided prosecutors.
“With the mistakes I made and the family I hurt, I’m just trying to right a wrong,” he said, his handcuffed arms outstretched. “I’m sorry.”
Marx said he would have given Cobia more of a break had he not been previously convicted of robberies and aggravated assaults.
Cobia’s punishment includes a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 25 years.
Keanu Green, nephew of the victim, said he hoped Cobia would “rot in prison.”
“Mr. Cobia needs to see extreme justice for his actions,” Green said, describing his Uncle Dunkley as a peaceful man who worked for a sugar mill for years until finally achieving his dream to open a restaurant.
The prosecutors and detectives who testified for Cobia said he never asked for any special privileges in exchange for going against fellow inmates.
They described Cobia as respectful, credible, and truthful.
“He always,” prosecutor Terri Skiles said, “held up his end of the deal.”
But what can you do to stop snitches? Here’s a list of snitches with pictures and locations. Also read: Control of Information so you can stop snitching on yourself. Also: How to find out who’s a snitch and 10 Ways to Spot an Informant and How the cops are tracking you and No Warrant No Problem and Criminal defenses (How to beat your court case) And to inspire you: 7 Fugitives who Became Folk Heroes, How I Lost my friends