Basketballer-turned-robber avoids further jail time
Janna Sladic, picture here in 2002 when she was playing for the Canberra Capitals basketball team. Photo: Andrew Campbell
A former elite basketballer and one-time model turned armed robber has been sentenced to three years but will spend no more time behind bars.
Janna Sladic, 27, had a promising sporting career and played reserve roles for the Canberra Capitals.
But she fell into drugs and crime after a car crash cut short her basketball career and she began a relationship with habitual drug user and criminal, Matthew James Massey.
Criminal Matthew Massey.
Sladic pleaded guilty to the aggravated robbery of a KFC outlet in Hawker in November last year.
She and another person, whom police allege was Taras Twerd, entered the store armed with knives.
It is alleged Twerd grabbed a staff member by the throat and forced him back to the counter, at which point the worker broke free and cleared the counter.
Police say Twerd threatened to stab staff if they didn’t hand over cash, before jumping the counter himself and grabbing money from the tills.
Sladic, who did not point her own knife at the staff, put the money in an enviro-bag and the pair fled the scene.
Sladic admitted her role after her arrest a short time later, but told police Twerd threatened to kill her if she didn’t take part in the heist.
Twerd has pleaded not guilty and is yet to face trial.
She was released on bail last week after serving more than 390 days locked up on remand at the Alexander Maconochie Centre.
The ACT Supreme Court heard the former athlete’s troubles began in her early 20s when she struggled with painkiller abuse after her accident.
Sladic met Massey at a sports function and began a dysfunctional seven-year relationship defined by his regular stints behind bars.
Massey is a notorious prison hard-man with more than 50 convictions ranging from bank robbery to escaping custody, and who has spent most of his adult life in custody.
When Sladic pulled off the Hawker KFC robbery Massey was nearing the end of a prison sentence for kidnapping and aggravated robbery.
But at a sentencing hearing before Justice Richard Refshauge last week, Sladic said their relationship was over.
The court heard Sladic wanted to leave town, avoid old associates and start a new, drug-free life.
Sladic has been clean since being locked up on remand in November last year.
The judge took into account Sladic’s plea of guilty, her lesser role in the robbery, her tragic life since the car accident and other mitigating circumstances.
But he also noted the traumatic effect of armed robberies on the victims, and the serious nature of the crime.
Justice Refshauge sentenced Sladic to three years, suspended from Friday on entering into a two-year good-behaviour order with a probation condition.
“I have put you under supervision, probation, because I think you need some assistance at this stage to keep your shoulder to the wheel,” he said.
The judge warned Sladic drug rehabilitation would be a long and difficult process.
“I have no doubt that a sportswoman like you has got the grit and determination to achieve that,” he said.
“You never know, one day I might even see you playing [professional sport again], wouldn’t that be fantastic.”