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Convicted Robber Earns Long Prison Sentence for Attack on Councilman

An ex-con who robbed and beat former San Diego City Councilman Harry Mathis and who once forced 10 people at a Lemon Grove Pizza Hut into a freezer, was sentenced to 93 years to life in prison.

An ex-con and parolee who robbed and beat former San Diego City Councilman Harry Mathis during a break-in at the victim's University City home was sentenced Dec. 12 to 93 years to life in prison.

Harvey Henry Duson, 46, pleaded guilty in late October to all 11 counts against him, including kidnapping for robbery and false imprisonment.

The defendant has 26 prior felony "strikes," including robbery convictions from 1990 and 1993, when he forced 10 people into a freezer at a Pizza Hut restaurant in Lemon Grove.

Duson dressed up like an employee and ran from the restaurant, where he was confronted and shot multiple times by sheriff's Deputy Pete Carrillo when he pulled a gun.

Carrillo, speaking at Duson's sentencing today, said he had mercy on the wounded Duson that night and told him to repent.

The deputy said he opposed Duson's release from prison.

"I'm angry that this man was released," Carrillo told Judge Eugenia Eyherabide. "I knew he would victimize others."

Mathis, 79, told Duson that it was "no accident" that he survived his gunshot wounds in 1993 and wasn't shot by Mathis himself during the break-in.

The former councilman said he and his wife would pray for Duson if he decided to turn his life around.

Mathis also urged Duson to help law enforcement identify his accomplice and bring him to justice. Mathis said there was potentially some good in the accomplice, because "he could have shot me and he didn't."

Eyherabide denied a request to strike Duson's prior strikes.

"There's a reason we have a three-strikes law, and it's for people like you, Mr. Duson," the judge said.

Eyherabide commended the defendant for pleading guilty and saving the victims from having to testify at trial.

Mathis testified during a preliminary hearing in May that he was attacked about 9 p.m. last Jan. 11 by two men as he got out of his car in his garage at his University City home.

"They were yelling, 'Where's the cash?"', Mathis recalled.

Mathis -- who said he was legally carrying a concealed firearm because of two previous break-ins at his home -- testified that he struggled with one of his attackers over the gun but couldn't get a clean shot at the assailant.

Mathis, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transit System board, said he fired two quick shots into the air in hopes neighbors might hear and call 911. He said he gave up the fight over his gun when one of the attackers hit him hard in the head with what he thought was the butt of another gun.

Mathis said he was ordered to strip down to his underwear and taken at gunpoint to open a safe in a back bedroom. The witness said his wife and a neighbor were inside.

Mathis said he struggled to open the walk-in safe and his assailant grew anxious.

"He said, 'Hurry up or I'll shoot"' and also threatened to "torch the place," Mathis testified.

Mathis said he thought the intruders were after his gun collection and was surprised to learn they wanted cash, which he didn't keep in the safe.

He said the intruders put him, his wife and neighbor into a bathroom and left, but not before setting fire to some clothes in the kitchen and to one of the cars in the garage.

Witnesses testified that DNA found on Mathis' car and other items in the home matched Duson's DNA.

The defendant also pleaded guilty to robbing two sales representatives at a Sprint phone store on Rosecrans Street two months before the break-in at the Mathis home.

DNA taken from a black sock used to tie up the victims in the Sprint store robbery also came back to Duson, said prosecutor Martin Doyle.

Duson -- who was released from state prison last year after serving half of his 32-year sentence for the armed robbery in Lemon Grove -- was arrested in Arizona in February following a high-speed pursuit, a day after he eluded California law enforcement.

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