Antonio Vega: a 16-year-old youth who with mental health issues who deserved leniency and another chance at life, or a cold, calculating thug who deserved 40 years in prison for participating in the robbery of the Big G Grocery store in Early?
    Those were the contrasting arguments defense attorney Tommy Adams and Brown County Attorney Shane Britton presented to jurors Thursday afternoon in Vega’s punishment trial.
    The jury responded with a 30-year confinement under determinate sentencing rules, meaning he will serve part of the sentence in a Texas Juvenile Justice facility before being eligible for transfer to adult prison. Britton told jurors he was sorry he couldn’t ask for more than 40 years but said Vega’s punishment, as a juvenile, was capped at 40.
    Vega, of Elgin, pleaded “true” earlier to four counts of aggravated robbery and one count of engaging in organized criminal activity in the Dec. 31, 2014 robbery of the store. Vega was 15 at the time of the robbery.
    Jurors heard punishment testimony all day Wednesday and for part of Thursday with Brown County Court-at-Law Judge Sam Moss presiding.
    After Moss announced the jury’s verdict following a 90-minute deliberation, Susan Isom, whose son, Austin, was working at the Big G the night of the robbery, addressed Vega.
    Isom told Vega he has “some nerve for all the hell” he caused in Brown and Bastrop counties. Vega has been linked to several Elgin armed robberies, according to testimony.
    “The God I serve is a loving God and a forgiving God,” Isom continued, adding she prays Vega finds forgiveness. “I pray that we all get passed this and can move on and you can become a fine young man and return to society.
    “I’m sorry for your choices. My heart is big enough to love you even though you almost killed my child.”
    Authorities believe Vega was the masked robber who fired a shotgun twice inside the store, with one of the blasts narrowly missing Austin Isom.
    Co-defendant Cody Williams, 19, stood trial in February and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. A third person, Jackie Scott III, 20, is awaiting trial. Authorities believe Vega and Williams ran into the store and committed the robbery while Scott remained in the trio’s car.
    Britton concluded the prosecution’s case Thursday morning with testimony from Brown County Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Lisa Ritter, who said Vega had been placed in several different juvenile lockups after Bastrop County authorities detained Vega on a Brown County directive.
    Vega also spent some time at a state mental hospital, Ritter said.
    No juvenile lockup was willing to keep Vega as he awaited trial because, in some cases,  Vega assaulted guards and in other cases attempted to harm himself, Ritter testified.
    Adams opened his case by introducing as evidence several court records that pertained to the case. Adams closed his case minutes later without calling any witnesses.
    Adams in his closing argument asked jurors to assess probation or at the most a short prison sentence.
    “Probation is Judge Moss supervising this child,” Adams told jurors, adding that Vega had “stepped up to the plate” and admitted his crime.
    Vega has mental health issues and had been “passed around from (juvenile) facility to facility,” with no commitment from juvenile probation officials to help him, Adams said.
    Adams said neither he nor Vega are making excuses for participating in the robbery but added, “I beseech you, jury, the remedy in this case is probation.”
    Britton told jurors in his closing argument that the idea of probation for Vega was offensive to him. While Vega’s birth certificate may show him to be 16, Vega is no normal 16-year-old. “He’s a 16-year-old kids who’s committed six to 10 robberies,” Britton said. He went on to describe Vega as “a cold, calculated person. This is not a mentally ill person. … he’s just a thug. He’s disruptive because he’s a thug, not because he’s mentally ill.
    “ … Let me tell you, but by the grace of God, this is not a murder case. The difference between a murder case and an aggravated robbery case is pretty darn close.”