2018-04-19 / Courts

Fed charges dismissed; bank robbery scramble

By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff

A U.S. Magistrate based in Grand Rapids on Tuesday tossed federal charges sought against a Benzie County man local prosecutors believe robbed the Empire bank, causing a scramble to refile state charges.

Leelanau County prosecutor Joseph T. Hubbell said that on Tuesday evening he prepared paperwork to re-institute three charges in 13th Circuit Court against William F. Minore, a Benzonia man accused of robbing nearly $40,000 from an Empire bank.

However, Minore’s prosecution was still up in the air Wednesday morning even though he remained in federal prison in Newaygo on a warrant issued in Grand Traverse County. Hubbell said U.S. prosecutors will likely seek federal charges through a grand jury, and he expected to withdraw local charges.

Hubbell said he did not have time to fully investigate why the federal attempt at prosecution was denied. The intent was to prosecute Minore for three bankeries — one in Leelanau County, two in Benzie — with one trial.

In the meantime, though, Hubbell said he wanted to make sure that Minore stayed incarcerated, regardless of which jurisdiction led the prosecution.

“I don’t know what was determined or why it was determined. Obviously, our local District judge found probable cause to send the case to trail, and I suspect it will be sent to trial in state court,” he said.

Minore’s attorney embraced the federal decision through a Facebook post.

“Victory,” wrote court-appointed defense attorney William Burdette of Traverse City. “I am so happy... the federal judge then after a two-day preliminary hearing said there was not enough evidence to go forward. I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness saying the same thing and even went to the Supreme Court trying to be heard.”

Burdette’s post referred to appeals he made to prevent evidence from two other bank robberies at Honor State Bank in Lake Ann that prosecutors believe were made by Minore from being entered.

A switch in jurisdiction was sought by the FBI. To fulfill the request, the original charges filed in Leelanau County had to be dropped.

The state charges, all felonies, reinstated but expected to be dropped against Minore are:

 Armed robbery, a life offense;

 Unlawful driving away of a motor vehicle, a five-year charge;

 And firearm possession in commission of a crime, a 2-year charge.

Minore’s outstanding warrant in Grand Traverse County was for possession of a taser that was seized during his arrest.

“Basically. it starts the process over again. I can’t control that. So we’ll just move forward based on the latest development,” Hubbell said.

His office had done much of the legwork in preparing for a jury trial of Minore, who is accused of single handedly pulling off the daylight robbery on Sept. 7, 2016, of Huntington Bank in Empire. He allegedly used a .38 caliber handgun in the process of the crime, and stole a car from in front of Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor on the same day.

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