The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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January 16, 2013

Jury finds man guilty of pawn shop burglary

CLINTON — A Clinton County jury deliberated for approximately 30 minutes before finding a man guilty of robbery in the first degree on Tuesday.

A sob broke free from the defendant, Darrell Thomas, 27, when the verdict was read and the jury was polled. As a forcible felony, the conviction carries with it a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years. Thomas will not be eligible for parole until he has served 70 percent of the sentence, approximately 17.5 years. His sentencing is set for 9 a.m. Feb. 21.

Defense attorney Bruce Ingham did not dispute that his client was guilty of the robbery of Library Pawn Shop, 901 N. Second St., on Oct. 18. In his closing statement, Ingham stated that County Attorney Mike Wolf “absolutely” proved that Thomas committed the robbery and assaulted and threatened owner Shirley Reed. However, Ingham argued that the crime did not constitute robbery in the first degree.

Judge Mark Cleve instructed the jury that for Thomas to be found guilty of robbery in the first degree, the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he entered the pawn shop on Oct. 18 with the intent to commit a theft; that to carry out the theft he either committed an assault on Reed or threatened her and put her in fear; that he was armed with a dangerous weapon.

Wolf and Ingham agreed that the first two requirements had been met.

Throughout the day, Wolf called law enforcement officers from both Davenport and Clinton to discuss how Thomas was charged with the robbery. Elizabeth Griffin, a desk clerk from the Travel Lodge in Davenport, told the court about checking Thomas into room 221. When she recognized him from a media release in the Quad-City Times she called Crimestoppers and later told police that he said he was going to Easy Pawn to sell some rings.

Davenport Police Officer Doug Adams testified that he responded to Easy Pawn and observed Thomas matching the surveillance video photo from the Library Pawn Shop robbery. Adams told the court that he and his partner found a knife on Thomas’ right hip. Both Davenport Detective Mark Dinneweth and Clinton Cpl. Brian Pohl testified finding items from the robbery in room 221 at the Travel Lodge.

Wolf played a portion of a police video where Thomas was questioned by Pohl and Detective Michael Adney. In the tape, Thomas could be heard admitting to the robbery. Jurors watched as Thomas filled out his statement on the tape, which Wolf then placed up on a video screen for them to read.

Wolf said the state also showed that Thomas assaulted Shirley Reed. Reed on Monday told the court how Thomas threatened her with a knife and pushed her to the floor. On Tuesday, Reed continued her testimony and explained how this event has affected her. Already suffering from arthritis, Reed told the court that being pushed around further damaged her knee and legs. She added that the robbery also affected her emotionally.

“I’ve never been so frightened in my whole life,” Reed said.

Reed said that she will never forget the attack and has nightmares about it. She added that she is now afraid of everyone who walks through the door at her shop, unless she knows them.

Ingham argued that the knife used in the robbery did not constitute a dangerous weapon. He told the jury that under the law, a dangerous weapon must be an instrument or device that is primarily designed to inflict serious harm or kill a person or animal. He offered the examples of a gun or a pistol. Ingham held up a pencil and compared it to the knife, saying neither were designed primarily to kill.

The other way an item can be classified as a dangerous weapon is if it is used with the intent to do serious harm or kill. Ingham said if a person jammed the pencil in another person’s eye, it would become a dangerous weapon. However, he maintained that Thomas used the knife to scare Reed, but did not use it with the intent to kill or seriously harm her.

“If he had intended to hurt or kill her, she would have been hurt or killed,” Ingham said. “If he wanted her hurt; if he wanted her dead; one of those two things would have happened.”

Ingham asked that the jury find Thomas guilty of robbery in the second degree instead.

Wolf rebutted Ingham’s argument, emphasizing the wording “as to indicate” that the defendant intended to hurt or kill Reed. He pointed out that Thomas brought a cord into the shop with the intent to bind Reed.

“Did he use it? Yes, he did,” Wolf said.

Wolf reminded the jury of Thomas’ testimony to Adney on the tape, where he said he left and promised he would not do anything, if she did not scream. Wolf again reminded the court of Reed’s testimony that Thomas told her over and over that he was going to kill her.

“He held this knife as he was telling these things,” Wolf said.

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