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UNITED STATES v. JONES

April 22, 1977

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
FRED LEE JONES



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHILL

 Fred Lee Jones was found guilty by a jury of bank robbery and of assaulting and jeopardizing the lives of two tellers by use of a dangerous weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 *fn1" and 2113(a) and (d). *fn2" Three other individuals, Larry Eggleston, Richard McIntosh and Tyrone Jones, indicted as codefendants, entered guilty pleas to the charges. Defendant has filed a motion for judgment of acquittal, or, in the alternative, for a new trial.

 We deny the motions.

 I

 The Facts

 On May 27, 1976 at approximately 11:00 A.M. the South Side office of the Peoples Bank of Western Pennsylvania, New Castle, Pennsylvania, was robbed of $7451.00 by four black males.

 The testimony at the trial revealed that at approximately 10:40 A.M. on the day of the robbery, Larry Eggleston, Richard McIntosh and two other men went to the home of one Dan Briggs in New Castle. Briggs's younger brother, Sherdell, knew Eggleston and McIntosh, let them in the door and talked with them for about ten minutes. Eggleston and McIntosh had occasionally stayed at the Briggs residence. Ten minutes later, at approximately 10:50, the four men left, telling Sherdell Briggs to leave the door unlocked for them if he left the house. The men departed in a 1970 4-door Buick Electra 225, light green with a dark top.

 A clothing store owner across from the bank saw a man (later identified as Tyrone Jones) enter the bank. He also saw a full-sized American car, light green in color, moving slowly in the direction of a stoplight beyond the bank, and saw two other men walk up to the bank from the same direction, look in, walk past it, return, then approach and make "some hand sign or something" to the green car. The two men then went to the bank's door, held it open and shortly thereafter a man ran out of the bank carrying a gun and a satchel.

 Tyrone Jones had entered the bank armed with a sawed-off shotgun and robbed the tellers. The tellers, who testified they feared for their lives, placed the money in a briefcase which was identified at trial. The loot included "bait money" which, when removed from the cash drawer, tripped the surveillance camera causing it to photograph the robbery.

 A witness who lived four doors away from the bank had seen three men "hanging around" a corner on an empty lot near the bank. Two of them wore hats which reminded her of "J.J. on Good Times." Half an hour later she saw two of them running across lot, one carrying a briefcase; they jumped into a 2-door big light green American car that came up to them, halted, and then sped away. She did not see the driver.

 Shortly after 11:00 A.M., a witness several blocks away observed a light green 1970 4-door Buick Electra 225 with a dark top speeding along a city street and through an intersection red light.

 At approximately 11:20 A.M. Sherdell Briggs was sitting on the front porch of his brother Dan's house. The light green 1970 Buick Electra which Sherdell had seen his visitors enter half an hour earlier pulled up to the house. The driver was in the front seat and the three other individuals were lying down in the back seat; they crawled out from the back seat carrying a briefcase and a sawed-off shotgun and went into the Briggs' house. Sherdell recognized them as the men who had visited him earlier. At the trial he identified the driver as Fred Lee Jones, and indicated that Jones was wearing tie-dyed blue jeans and a multicolored silk T-shirt.

 Being apprehensive, Sherdell left the house immediately. He met a relative, Andrew Lockett, and told him about the strange happenings. The two men drove to another part of town where they learned that the Peoples Bank had been robbed. Lockett dropped Sherdell off in another part of town, then drove by the Briggs' house and noticed the light green car parked in front.

 Meanwhile, Dan Briggs and his wife returned home from grocery shopping shortly before noon. The light green car was no longer parked in front of their house. Dan unloaded the groceries, after which the three men in the house (Eggleston, McIntosh and Tyrone Jones) prevailed upon him to take them to a bus station. The three gathered their belongings, including paper bags and a laundry bag containing something and put them into Briggs's car. Briggs did not think anything to be out of the ordinary.

 Dan Briggs was stopped by Trooper John W. Hudson of the Pennsylvania State Police for a traffic violation (passing a truck in a no-passing zone) while he was taking the three men to the bus station. Trooper Hudson had heard the robbery had been committed by four black males and asked the occupants of the car for identification. Only Briggs and McIntosh had any. Hudson then requested that they follow him to a state police barracks for questioning in connection with the bank robbery.

 Upon arriving at the barracks the four were escorted inside and asked for further identification. All of the men (including Briggs) were placed under arrest when Trooper Hudson made a visual inspection of the inside of the car and saw a brown bag that contained considerable amount of money. He also saw a wad of bills stuck in the back seat. This testimony was adduced at the suppression hearing.

 They were advised of their constitutional rights and searched for weapons. During the weapons search a wad of bills totaling some $500 and a Peoples National Bank money wrapper were found in the side of McIntosh's sock. Following this discovery and the arrival of an FBI agent and a New Castle policeman, Dan Briggs consented to a search of his automobile and executed a written waiver. Detective Ronald S. Williams found $3500 in a paper bag and money stuffed behind the front passenger seat and in the back seat of the car. FBI Agent Oliver H. Hunter opened the trunk in Briggs's presence and found the laundry bag. After Briggs indicated that the bag belonged to one of the other three, Agent Hunter opened it and found a sawed-off shotgun hidden among the clothes. Briggs denied any knowledge of the robbery, the money or the shotgun.

 Briggs was released a short time later. Prior to his release he had consented to a search of his home and again signed a waiver. The agents searched Briggs's home at 5 or 6 P.M. that day. They recovered several articles of clothing belonging to some of the men and the briefcase taken from the bank.

 Meanwhile, Officer Vincent Russo of the New Castle Police had heard the police radio broadcast following the robbery and set up an observation post at the intersection of Routes 18 and 108, approximately 1 - 1 1/2 miles from the bank in hopes of intercepting the robbers. He was on the lookout for a late model Buick, light green with a dark top. He saw such a car at approximately 11:45 A.M. with one occupant and followed it. Before stopping the car, he radioed the license plate registration number to the police dispatcher and learned that the car was registered to one Fred Lee Jones from Pittsburgh, the defendant herein.

 Officer Russo stopped the car and asked the driver for identification. The driver was Fred Lee Jones. He asked Jones to step out of the vehicle and then asked whether he could look in the trunk; Jones consented and the officer found nothing of import. The officer also looked in the car windows and saw several cassette tapes on the back seat and two one-dollar bills lying on the floor. Jones explained the bills by saying that he must have dropped them.

 The officer further noted that Jones had on a pair of tie-dyed blue jeans and a multicolored silk body shirt. He recalled the car as being a 1968 to 1970 Buick 4-door Sedan with a light green body and dark vinyl top. The driver had been cooperative throughout the officer's inquiry, explained his presence in New Castle by indicating that he was ...


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