Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included Clevenger with Highley and Sawin as perpetrators of the crime; Clevenger did not go to trial before hanging himself.
Two skinheads, including a Rancho Santa Margarita man, were sentenced Friday to at least 15 years in state prison.
Mitchell Highley, 24, could face life in prison as the result of his role in a home invasion robbery, but he will likely spend at least 20 years behind bars because of a sentencing enhancement. Also sentenced by Judge Kimberly Menninger was Brian Merle Sawin, 25, who has been identified by authorities as from either Garden Grove or Anaheim; he pleaded guilty to the same charges.
The two men perpetrated a home invasion robbery in San Clemente on Feb. 16, 2009. A third man alleged to have been involved, Stephen Jeffrey Clevenger of Mission Viejo, committed suicide by hanging while in the Orange County Jail in Santa Ana on Aug. 29, 2010; he was 29.
Highley and Sawin pleaded guilty of two counts of first degree robbery, first degree burglary, assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, and street terrorism; additionally, they admitted to being involved in a criminal street gang that carries an additional five-year penalty.
In 2009, Highley, Sawin and Clevenger had been contacted by Roarke Ryan Ocampo, who sought retribution against a woman who felt their relationship was platonic. When the woman took up with a boyfriend, Ocampo reached out to the skinheads, said senior district attorney Jim Mendleson.
Ocampo told the men that 50 pounds of marijuana and $7,000 cash was in the residence. The men found the woman asleep in bed with the boyfriend, but there was no pot and no money. They pulled the woman out of bed and held a knife to her neck before beating her over the head with a sock that had a padlock inside it, Mendleson said. The boyfriend was also assaulted and suffered minor injuries.
The skinheads also used two guns, one of which was a BB gun that looked like the real thing, according to Mendleson.
The men fled the scene when they sensed police were coming, but Sawin got left behind and was subsequently identified.
Highley and Sawin were members of a white racist criminal street gang in Orange County.
Ocampo pleaded guilty in September to two counts of first degree robbery, assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, and false report of a criminal offense. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Since 2005, Highley had about a dozen run-ins with the law, from not wearing his seatbelt—his first offense—to receiving stolen equipment and possession of a controlled substance.