Crime

Ex-Southwest High football star pleads guilty to robbing ATF informant at Macon Walmart

A former standout football player at Southwest High School pleaded guilty Tuesday to robbing a man who turned out to be a confidential police informant — one who was being watched by federal agents when the gunpoint-holdup happened in a Walmart parking lot.

Qui’untae Deshawn Clowers, a star defensive back for the Patriots, was arrested at the scene of the April 24, 2018, stickup on Harrison Road in west Macon.

Clowers was 18 at the time and weeks away from graduating high school.

He was sentenced Tuesday to serve 15 years in prison on charges that included armed robbery and aggravated assault.

At a hearing in Bibb County Superior Court, prosecutor Ben R. Conkling described the crime, saying that Clowers and an accomplice, Roberto Antonio Thorpe Jr., arranged a deal by phone with the informant to sell the informant methamphetamine, a handgun and a rifle for $1,700.

The prosecutor said the trio agreed to meet outside the Walmart where, unbeknownst to Clowers and Thorpe, the cops were perched nearby monitoring the informant’s every move via hidden cameras and microphones.

Conkling said Clowers and Thorpe wheeled up in car and that they were toting a green duffel bag stuffed full of pine tree branches to make it look like a gun was inside.

The informant, the man they aimed to rob, was working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in an undercover operation to buy guns and drugs from street dealers.

Conkling said when Clowers and Thorpe got there they both walked over and sat down in the informant’s car, and that Clowers soon pulled a 9mm pistol from his waistband or pocket and held it to the informant’s head.

ATF agents and Bibb sheriff’s deputies monitoring the transaction swooped in and arrested Clowers and Thorpe.

Clowers, now 19, also faces an unrelated armed robbery charge in Clayton County.

Thorpe, 26, was sentenced earlier in the day and, in part because of a lengthy felony record, sentenced to 20 years behind bars.

Clowers’ lawyer, Melvin Raines, told Judge Howard Z. Simms at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing that his client was recruited by Thorpe to participate in “a dumb crime.”

Raines also spoke of Clowers football-playing days at Southwest, describing Clowers as “probably one of the best defensive backs I have ever seen.”

Raines said the robbery was “an all-around bad decision, but I would attribute it to his youthfulness at the time and not thinking.”

Reached by phone after the hearing and informed of Clowers’ sentence, Southwest football coach Joe Dupree said, “(Clowers) always did what I asked him to do. He never was a troublemaker. It’s shocking.”

Clowers’ grandmother, who didn’t give her name, addressed the court and said Clowers has one baby and another on the way. She told the judge that Clowers had never run afoul of the law “until now. ... I don’t know what went wrong. He’s always been an honor roll student.”

Clowers’ mother, Quiyawna Brown, spoke next and said she works two jobs to help care for her son’s child.

“I may,” she said, “have to get three (jobs).”

The judge told both women that Clowers’ crime wasn’t their fault.

Clowers’ lawyer said Clowers had been bound for college at Savannah State University.

Simms spoke of what by all appearances had been a promising future, one now wasted.

“You have just thrown it into the toilet,” the judge told Clowers. “For no reason.”

“The door to your future was wide open. I mean wide open,” Simms said, “with a great big sign that said, ‘Welcome.’ And you’re looking at a whole different sign and a whole different door — a door with bars in it. And that makes me sad.”

Simms asked Clowers what had compelled him to turn to crime.

Clowers, all but whispering, said he wasn’t thinking. Aside from that, he could not muster an answer.

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