Local man's politeness during bank holdup leads to reduced charges

November 29, 2011|By DON AINES |

HAGERSTOWN — Franklin D. Keefer II announced he was holding up the Columbia Bank in Hagerstown on June 28 and politely asked for money.

As a result, he was allowed to enter an Alford plea Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court to a theft charge.

Keefer, 29, who lived in the Dagmar Hotel, 50 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, at the time of the holdup, had been charged with robbery and theft of between $1,000 and $10,000, according to court records.

However, the prosecution and defense agreed that the theft charge was the appropriate disposition, Assistant Public Defender Carl Creeden said.

“Robbery involves the force or threat of force,” Creeden said after the hearing.

If those elements are absent, what occurs is not a robbery, according to a recent Maryland Court of Appeals ruling.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the prosecution has sufficient evidence to gain a conviction.

Keefer did not display a weapon when he entered the bank at 83 W. Washington St., according to the charging documents filed by Hagerstown police.

“Can I have everybody’s attention? This is a holdup,” Keefer said when he entered, the charging documents said.
Then he walked behind the counter and opened drawers. Not finding any money in the drawers, Keefer walked up to a teller who was counting a cash deposit, the documents said.

“Can I please have that stack of money?” Keefer asked the teller, the  documents said.
He left with $3,500, the documents said.

Although Keefer was wearing sunglasses and a ski cap, the teller recognized him as a bank customer. Two employees later identified him from a photographic array, the documents said.

Washington County Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson told Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. that Keefer was arrested a short time later at the Dagmar, although the cash was never recovered.

On Oct. 25, the Court of Appeals issued a ruling in a 2009 case in which the defendant told the cashier at a business, “Don’t say nothing,” and the cashier handed him the cash register drawer.

“This brief statement, by itself, would not cause an ordinary, reasonable person to have felt apprehension that (the defendant) was about to apply force,” according to the court’s majority opinion. “A reasonable person ... would not automatically hand over the cash register drawer.”

The court ruled the defendant’s words were not sufficient to sustain a robbery conviction and sent the case back to Baltimore County Circuit Court.

“To intimidate or threaten an individual to the extent necessary for the legal standard of robbery, something more is needed,” the court opinion said.

“This is an unusual case,” Long told Keefer. “I guess because you didn’t articulate by your words or actions an intent to commit robbery,” the state was precluded from prosecuting that charge, he told Keefer.

“It’s not something I’d ever see myself doing in the future,” Keefer said.

Since being jailed, Keefer said he has realized the need to “get my life together.”

“So far, I haven’t done a lot to prove that,” he said.

Long sentenced Keefer to seven years in state prison, suspending all but 2 1/2 years and giving him 154 days of credit for time served.

Long also ordered Keefer to spend five years on supervised probation and repay the $3,500 to the bank.

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