Grass Valley T-Mobile robbery defendant will face trial
The lone remaining defendant in the November 2018 robbery of the Grass Valley T-Mobile store is set to stand trial after a judge found enough evidence to hold him on two counts of second-degree robbery.
Brian Mack, 21, was arrested along with three other men after they allegedly robbed the Nevada County Highway T-Mobile store on Nov. 15 and fled in a Jeep. The other three men have accepted plea agreements. Only Mack, who appeared Thursday in Nevada County Superior Court, still faces trial.
That trial was set for August, though prosecutors dismissed the case and refiled it after a judge denied a request for a delay.
That led to Thursday’s preliminary hearing, which ended with Judge Scott Thomsen finding enough evidence to advance the case toward trial. Mack’s next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 30.
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In Thursday’s hearing, Grass Valley police officers testified that three men with hoodies cinched tight around their heads came into the store. They told two employees to shut up and began yanking cell phones off the displays. A fourth man, identified as Mack, ran in as they were exiting and grabbed something — possibly a cell phone — off the floor before exiting. The entire robbery took less than a minute, the officers testified.
Both store employees reported being terrified and believed one of the men, who had his hands in his pockets, might be armed, Officer Brian Hooper said. None of the men brandished a weapon.
Deputy District Attorney Cambria Lisonbee stressed the fear element of the incident, as a robbery charge requires the taking of property from another by force or fear.
Mack’s defense attorney, Stephen Munkelt, argued that just because someone is afraid when property is stolen doesn’t mean it’s a robbery. He said none of the men made an attempt to create fear and suggested their fear was caused by the defendants’ race.
“They might have been afraid, it was a startling event,” Munkelt acknowledged, before noting, “We live in a predominantly white community and these are African American males.”
Munkelt also reiterated an argument he made previously, that Mack was not part of the actual theft of the cell phones and would be more appropriately charged with felony theft or commercial burglary.
Nevada County Superior Court Judge Scott Thomsen held Mack to answer on the two felony counts, noting that intimidation without threat sufficed for a robbery charge.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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