B was charged with one count of robbery in the third degree. On April 9th, 2010, Mr. B allegedly stole $140 from Nellisha Gregory, who worked for a Syracuse branch Bank of America. According to the indictment issued against him, Mr. B took the money by force. This is important to note since the New York Penal Code defines robbery as the forcible stealing of another person’s property. Had the indictment not claimed that Mr. B used force, he may have only been charged with petty larceny or another minor crime. Had Mr. Brown used a weapon or other dangerous instrument in the commission of the robbery, the charge may have been elevated to robbery in the first degree.
Mr. B’s criminal defense attorney filed a motion with the Onondaga County Court on the grounds that the evidence presented to the Grand Jury was insufficient to support a charge of third degree robbery. The court was charged with determining whether the acts committed by Mr. B satisfied the elements of robbery in the third degree as defined under New York law. For purposes of the Grand Jury proceedings, the standard of proof is prima facie evidence, rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
After reviewing the evidence presented to the Grand Jury, the court determined that the evidence was insufficient to warrant a conviction at trial. Specifically, the court held that the prosecution was responsible for establishing that in the course of committing a larceny act, Mr. Brown had used or threatened to use force to compel the victim to surrender the money. Citing People v. Woods, People v. Zagorski and People v. Mosley, the court went on to say that the very essence of a robbery or attempted robbery is the use of force but that force did not necessarily have to be in the form of physical contact with the victim or in the use or display of a weapon.
According to the testimony presented to the Grand Jury, the bank teller, Ms. G, looked up from her work and observed Mr. B standing in front of her. She noted that he was thin with light brown skin and that he was wearing a brightly-colored jacket and medical-type mask over his face. Ms. G further stated that she did not suspect anything out of the ordinary until the man put a plastic bag and a note on the counter in front of her. She testified that the man seemed nervous and that the note simply said “Give me your money”. She asked the man for his debit, to which he refused and told her again to give him the money. She then opened her till and put $140 in bait money in the bag. Mr. B took the note and the bag and then left the bank.
The court found that the note, coupled with the verbal statement to turn over the money, did not constitute a threat of harm to the victim. Based on this conclusion, the court ordered the third degree robbery charge to be reduced to petty larceny.
As evidenced by this case, having an experienced Defense Attorney to act as your advocate is key to protecting your rights. Had Mr. B’s attorney not filed the motion on his behalf, he may have been convicted of felony robbery, rather than misdemeanor larceny and potentially faced a prison sentence.
The law firm of Stephen Bilkis and Associates is equally dedicated to aggressively defending the rights of individuals who have been charged with robbery or other property crimes, such as burglary, in the New York area. If you or someone you love is in need of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, call 1-800-NY-NY-LAW today to discuss your case. You may also come to one of our New York area offices to speak with a member of our criminal defense team in person. Don’t let a conviction for robbery ruin your life. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates today to get the expert legal representation you need.