2017-02-09 / Courts

Plea rejected; bank robbery trial expected

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

Suspected bank robber William F. Minore on Monday declined a plea offer that would have required him to return money he allegedly took in three separate bank robberies, including the Sept. 7 heist of the Huntington Bank in Empire.

Leelanau County Prosecutor Joseph T. Hubbell said Minore, 69, was offered a plea of armed robbery, with charges of unlawful driving away of an automobile and using a firearm during the commission of a felony dismissed.

Hubbell said that if Minore accepted the plea he would also have had to admit his involvement in two robberies of the Honor State Bank in Lake Ann that took place in April and December 2015.

Minore would also have had to return any money that was taken in the robberies.

A total of $36,966 was taken from the Empire bank; it has not been made public how much was taken in the two heists of the Lake Ann bank.

None of the money has been recovered. Hubbell said he suspects it is buried somewhere.

Minore is accused of walking into the Empire bank with his face covered and brandishing a silver hand gun while demanding money.

Investigators say he took a Kia Soul vehicle from where it was parked in front of Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor, drove to Empire to commit the robbery, and then returned it to a spot in front of Cherry Republic on Lake Street — about a block from where it was taken.

While the gun seen on video tapes of the robbery has not been recovered, prosecutors believe it is the .38 Smith and Wesson that is registered to Minore.

Minore has been in the Leelanau County Jail since his arrest on Sept. 8, where he is being held on a $1 million cash/surety bond.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges in January after the case was bound over for trial. That jury trial is set for March 15.

“We’re preparing for trial,” Hubbell said. “We’re reviewing all the evidence we’ve received and will be prepared to bring this case to trial in March.”

On Monday, Circuit Court Judge Thomas G. Power ruled on several motions that had been submitted by prosecutors and by Minore’s Traverse City attorney Willam G. Burdette.

A prosecutor’s motion to admit diversionary phone calls made in the Benzie robberies was granted. Those four calls were very similar to calls made in the Empire case in which Minore has been accused of using ‘burner,’ or throw-away phones, to make calls to 9-1-1 dispatchers falsely reporting a shooting at the Leelanau School and a robbery in progress at a Lake Ann bank, Hubbell believes.

“We think it’s significant and logically relevant to bring in those other calls,” Hubbell said.

Hubbell said several witnesses have identified the voice in those calls to be Minore’s.

Two motions introduced by Burdette to quash evidence presented at the preliminary examination and to sever the charge connected with the driving away of the Kia Soul were both denied by Power.

Burdette argues in his briefs that there is no physical evidence or witness testimony that places Minore at the scene of the Empire robbery. Photos of the vehicle being driven into and out of Empire in the time right before and right after the robbery do not show the driver or the license plate, Burdette argued.

The vehicle could have been any Kia Soul, not the one which video surveillance tapes have shown of a person investigators believe is Minore driving away from Art’s Tavern, Burdette suggested.

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