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Man appeals Mid-Missouri robbery conviction

A man found guilty of robbing a Mid-Missouri bank is waiting for the Missouri Supreme Court to rule on his appeal Tuesday.

In 2013, Gary Coleman was arrested in Texas for the 2012 robbery of Bank Star One in New Bloomfield.

Coleman is currently serving a ten year prison sentence, but is appealing, claiming there isn’t sufficient evidence.

Missouri law defines robbery in the second degree as forcibly stealing property.

The law states forcibly means threatening the immediate use of physical force against another person.

Tuesday, Coleman’s lawyer said there was no immediate threat.

“The description of both the teller and another employee at the band described Mr. Coleman’s demeanor as calm and polite. He never raised his voice. He was not loud. He asked the teller to do him a favor and put the money in a bag that he handed her,” said Coleman’s lawyer Amy Bartholow.

During the incident, the Bank Star One teller put about $1,500 from her drawer into the bag and handed it to Coleman.

When the manager came over, Coleman told her to stop where she was and left the bank.

Bartholow said the Western District ruled the surveillance video showed none of Coleman’s actions inside the bank were threatening.

“In any other context, this action would be a stealing. The fact that she was afraid isn’t enough to establish that sort of a threat,” said Bartholow.

In trial court, the teller said she gave Coleman the money because she was afraid.

She said she didn’t see a weapon, but couldn’t see both of his hands.

The state prosecutor Tuesday said because it was in a bank, Coleman didn’t have to make direct threats to imply there was an immediate threat.

However, Missouri Supreme Court Justice Patricia Breckenridge didn’t agree.

“Simply because you know there’s the potential any time there’s a bank robbery that the robber could potentially use force, doesn’t mean it’s an immediate use of force,” said Breckenridge.

State Prosecutor Robert Bartholomew said an immediate threat is determined by what a “reasonable” person would consider a threat.

A few of the justices said that is too subjective and there needs to be a definite law about where to draw the line between robbery and stealing.

Missouri Supreme Court Justice Laura Stith said, “In both those cases, the people being stolen from are going to be very scared and intimidated.”

“Coming into a bank and taking money from a bank ought to be punished more than just stealing,” said Breckenridge.

The state Supreme Court now has to decide if Coleman’s conviction should remain as second degree robbery or if it should be amended to stealing.

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