Defendant found guilty of lesser theft charges in Grass Valley T-Mobile heist
The last remaining defendant in a four-man robbery case was found not guilty of committing a serious and violent felony.
Instead, a Nevada County jury on Thursday found 21-year-old Brian Mack guilty of two counts of the lesser felony charge of grand theft.
Four men, including Mack, allegedly ran inside the Nevada County Highway T-Mobile store on Nov. 15, 2018, stole cell phones off the wall, and fled in a Jeep. The other defendants accepted plea agreements, while Mack opted to go to trial on two counts of second-degree robbery.
Mack’s first trial in November ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of the robbery conviction.
Both trials hinged on the question of whether Mack’s actions constituted theft by force or fear. Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Cambria Lisonbee argued that the men’s “abrupt” entrance while wearing hoodies cinched around their faces and then ripping phones off the wall did produce the element of fear necessary for a conviction of robbery.
Lisonbee told the jury that employee Christian Jewell was terrified, too scared to move even a foot or two to reach the silent alarm.
Mack’s defense attorney, Stephen Munkelt, told the jury that not only was no force used, there was no intent to use fear to accomplish the theft.
“I’m very thankful we have a jury system for deciding criminal responsibility,” Munkelt said Thursday after the verdict. “A jury serves as a check on many kinds of errors and abuses in the judicial system.”
According to Munkelt, Mack’s case went to trial because the District Attorney’s Office would not settle the case in a manner that was proportional to his role. Mack had run inside the store as the three other men were running out and scooped a phone off the floor before fleeing.
“Mr. Mack was prepared to admit he committed a felony at the beginning of this case, but the prosecution insisted on a conviction for a violent and serious felony,” Munkelt said. “We asked the jury to find him responsible for two counts of felony theft, as a lesser included offense of the crimes charged by the DA. (We) are both very grateful that the community — as reflected by this jury — judged his responsibility at this level.”
Mack is set to return to court today in order for Judge Tom Anderson to rule on whether a prior strike offense will factor into his sentencing, Lisonbee said. Sentencing was set for Feb. 7.
Of the verdict, Lisonbee said, “We obviously believe this was a robbery, but we respect the decision of the jury. We are pleased he will be held accountable for the two felonies he was found guilty of.”
Anderson declined to release Mack on his own recognizance, and he remained in custody Thursday on a $200,000 bond.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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