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Brazen bank robbers and their lawyers

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POSTED June 29, 2009 2:23 a.m.

Bank robbers aren’t nearly as brazen as some of the lawyers that represent them.

Sometimes the bigger crime is how an attorney can either twist the constitution or use the legal system to rob the people of justice.

Many times lawyers use creative legal strategies to try and get their clients off the hook or at least find them some additional dollars through litigation after they’re arrested.

If bank robbers are caught clearly on tape, there are a number of witnesses that can testify to who they saw commit the crime and police were waiting to arrest them as they came out of the bank, it would be tough for even Johnny Cochrane to get them off.

Manteca’s “Three Time’s a Charm” bank robber is a case in point of a slam dunk case to convict a bank robber.

About six years ago a man walked into the Union Bank inside SaveMart on East Yosemite Avenue on a Friday morning at 10 a.m. and robbed the place,

Then the following week on Friday at 10 a.m. he struck again at the same branch.
Just to make sure they wouldn’t look like idiots in case the dimwit struck again, Manteca Police positioned detectives in an unmarked vehicle near the bank.

Sure enough, the guy showed up for robbery No. 3 - same place, same day of the week, same time.

His lawyer must have known what it feels to be a deer frozen in the middle of a darkened roadway transfixed on headlights from a car barreling down when the jury started deliberating that case.

The lawyers in a case that took place in Roseville in the early 1970s didn’t have that feeling when the California Supreme Court sided with them and let their client go free.

Roseville Police got a call from a citizen who was at a pay phone across the street from a Mother Lode Bank Branch to tell them two men had just pulled up, put masks over their face, and were walking toward the bank across the street.

As luck would have it, a police unit was in the vicinity about a block away.

Officers stopped the two armed men wearing masks just as they got to the bank’s door. The Placer County District Attorney charged them with attempted bank robbery.

Guess what? Yup, they eventually got off. Their lawyer argued that police had no reason to assume his clients were going to rob the bank. Forget cops found a robbery note on one of them –that was found because of an illegal search.

And how was it an illegal search? Their lawyer, on appeal, discovered that Roseville did not have an ordinance against wearing masks in public nor were the two men carrying concealed weapons since their shot guns were in plain view. So therefore, there was no justifiable reason to detain the two men.

It didn’t take long for Roseville to outlaw the wearing of masks in public except on Halloween.

The two men went free.

But when it comes to sheer audacity, nothing topped the attorney of a man who robbed a Placer National Bank in Roseville.

The teller gave him the money with a red dye packet tucked inside

The packet explodes staining the money with red dye to render the money useless.

The robber fled the bank, stuffing the bag under his waistband. About a mile down the freeway it exploded - right in his crotch.

He was convicted of bank robbery but his lawyer sued the bank for inflicting damage to his client’s privates. The bank settled out of court to get rid of the lawsuit.

Then there was my favorite - the political prosecution defense.

This is back in the days when Manteca municipal elections were a cross between a Ringling Brothers three-ring circus and a WWF Smackdown match.
Tellers at the old Stockton Savings Bank at Center and Yosemite told Manteca Police they recognized the robber from a photo that appeared in that day’s Bulletin that accompanied a story about him running for a council seat.

It helped also that video caught the guy plus police found a typewriter ribbon in the man’s home that had impressions that matched the robbery note given to the teller.

What’s a lawyer to do? No problem. Use the “my client is the target of a political prosecution” defense. It works every time.

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