Jury convicts Utah man of bank robbery, despite Robin Hood defense
Cheyenne, Wyo. • A federal jury took just over an hour Thursday to convict a Sandy man who said he robbed a bank in Wyoming so he could give money to the homeless.
Corey Donaldson, a burly 40-year-old originally from Australia, acted as his own attorney during the trial. He wrapped up his case Thursday without presenting any evidence or calling any witnesses.
Instead, Donaldson put all his bets on an impassioned closing argument, imploring the jury to find that he was justified in taking the money.
U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson had prohibited Donaldson from arguing that he was justified in robbing the US Bank in Jackson of more than $140,000 on New Year's Eve, and the judge sustained several objections from the prosecution during the closing argument.
Bank manager Jared Thomas Williams testified this week that he was terrified and turned over the cash after Donaldson told him that a Mexican cartel was ready blow up the building.
In his closing argument, Donaldson likened himself to Robin Hood. He told jurors that his actions were similar to those who stood up to British oppression in the American Revolution.
And Donaldson urged jurors to "consider Rosa Parks, a black woman who broke the law by sitting in a white person's seat."
"Even if the death penalty were available to you, I would still have done what I did to alleviate human suffering," Donaldson told the jury.
Donaldson confessed to investigators after he was arrested in Utah in late January. He told them he had intended to contact the FBI on his own and that he had given money away to needy people at a homeless shelter and others.
Donaldson told police that he decided to take money from a bank after living among the homeless and seeing the damage banks had done to people by foreclosing on their homes. He was living in Sandy, Utah, before his arrest.
As each of the nine women and three men on the jury stated that they agreed with the guilty verdict, Donaldson pivoted in his swivel chair and stared directly away from them.
Investigators had tracked Donaldson from surveillance photos both inside and outside the bank. They arrested Donaldson after a friend called police when Donaldson turned up at the friend's residence in a suburb of Salt Lake City in late January.
Police found more than $30,000 on Donaldson, in a vehicle he was riding in, and in a luxury hotel in Salt Lake City where he paid $3,500, under an alias, to book a room that rented for $309 a night.
Prosecutor Todd Shugart urged the jury to convict Donaldson, saying there was no doubt about his guilt.
"The defendant's comparison of himself to Rosa Parks and those soldiers who fought in the American Revolution is simply obscene," Shugart said.
Shugart pointed out $11,000 of the recovered cash was in envelopes addressed to Donaldson's relatives. "And the last I checked, Robin Hood lived in a forest, not a five-diamond hotel," he said.
After the jury verdict was in, Judge Johnson read from the Declaration of Independence, noting several of the grievances that colonists had against the British king that drove them to revolution. Among complaints were criticisms that the king had refused to allow necessary laws.
"I would say that the Declaration of Independence was a declaration against lawlessness," Johnson said. He set sentencing for Donaldson for July 11.
The U.S. Marshal's Service took Donaldson from the courtroom following the verdict.
James Barrett, a veteran federal assistant public defender, had assisted Donaldson through the trial. He said after the hearing that he expects Donaldson to face a sentence of about six years in prison.
"He did what he did for his reasons," Barrett said of Donaldson. "And that's about all you can say about any trial, or anything."