New Jersey

NJ Court Rules Against Bank Robbers in ‘Bomb' Cases

Bank employees reasonably believed that the men who robbed them in 2007 and 2008 were carrying bombs even though they didn't actually possess the weapons, New Jersey's Supreme Court ruled Monday in reinstating both men's first-degree robbery convictions.
The rulings in the appeals of Christopher Dekowski and Kelvin Williams were published together because they deal with the same New Jersey criminal statute. It elevates robbery from a second-degree crime to a first-degree crime if the perpetrator ``is armed with, or uses or threatens the immediate use of a deadly weapon.''
Dekowski was convicted of robbing a Commerce Bank branch in Roselle in 2007, and Williams was convicted of robbing a Sun National Bank branch in Somerdale in 2008. Though neither man was armed, both told bank employees they were carrying a bomb.
Both were convicted of first-degree robbery, with Dekowski sentenced to 13 years and Williams to 14. Appeals courts threw out both convictions, however, on the grounds that neither man's words or gestures clearly indicated he actually possessed a bomb.
The Supreme Court justices disagreed in dual 6-0 decisions. They concluded that when all circumstances were taken into account, bank employees had a reasonable belief that the men were armed. Williams wore a hooded sweatshirt and his hands, feet and torso weren't visible, and Dekowski carried a bag that resembled a briefcase, according to the court's filing.
"A terrorized victim cannot be expected to demand proof from the robber that he is armed with a deadly weapon, such as a bomb," Justice Barry Albin wrote. "It is enough if the victim has an actual and reasonable belief that the robber has a bomb based on the totality of the circumstances, including defendant's verbal threat, dress, any hand-held objects, and overall conduct."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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