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My name is ***** ***** I am a New York State criminal defense lawyer.
A chain snatch is a Robbery in the third degree in New York state. The maximum possible sentence on that for a first felony offender would be an indeterminate sentence of 2 1/3 - 7 years of prison, and there's no mandatory minimum.
So I suggest that your cousin is not leveling with you, because his sentence, if he's telling you the truth, would be an illegal sentence. The only time he could get a life sentence for a NYS robbery is if he had prior felony convictions -- if not in NYS than elsewhere -- and was sentenced as a violent persistent felon. Otherwise the maximum, even on a first degree robbery, would only be 25 years.