Appeals Court Affirms Ex-Police Officer's Armed Robbery Conviction01-Aug-2014
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals last week affirmed the conviction of former Tulsa police officer Marvin Blades, Jr.
Blades was convicted of armed robbery last year after an investigation revealed that the police officer had been targeting Hispanic drivers to pull over, and then stealing from their wallets. After police began receiving reports that an officer had been stealing from the wallets of Hispanic drivers, the Tulsa Police Special Investigation Division and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics conducted a sting operation to catch the officer in the act.
During the investigation, Blades pulled over an undercover OBN agent and ordered him to leave his wallet on the seat and to get in the back of the police car. When the undercover agent returned to his vehicle, he discovered $600 cash missing from his wallet. Officers then apprehended Blades and discovered $600 cash in his pocket.
Initially, Blades was arrested on a complaint of second degree robbery, but the charges were upgraded to five counts of robbery with a firearm. He was convicted in Tulsa County District Court of all five counts and sentenced to 35 years for each count. The 35-year sentences for counts 1, 2, and 3 were ordered to run concurrently. The 35-year sentences for counts 4 and 5 were suspended. They are to run concurrently to each other and consecutively to the sentences for counts 1-3. In other words, Blades was ordered to spend 35 years in prison followed by 35 years of probation.
Immediately upon his conviction, Blades's attorneys filed an appeal. They argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict the defendant of five counts of armed robbery. According to the appeal, two of the victims were unable to identify Blades as the man who robbed them. Furthermore, they say, Blades did not use a firearm to perpetrate the robberies. He neither brandished his firearm nor threatened the drivers with violence.
The appeals court, however, affirmed the lower court's ruling. According to state law, the mere presence of a real or imitation firearm during a robbery is enough to warrant a charge of armed robbery; it is not required that the robber point the firearm at a victim:
"Any person or persons who, with the use of any firearms or any other dangerous weapons, whether the firearm is loaded or not, or who uses a blank or imitation firearm capable of raising in the mind of the one threatened with such device a fear that it is a real firearm, attempts to rob or robs any person or persons, or who robs or attempts to rob any place of business, residence or banking institution or any other place inhabited or attended by any person or persons at any time, either day or night, shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction therefor, shall suffer punishment by imprisonment for life in the State Penitentiary, or for a period of time not less than five (5) years, at the discretion of the court, or the jury trying the same" (21 O.S. 801).
The state Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the "accoutrements of a uniformed police officer--including his service firearm" were enough to threaten and intimidate the victims, without having to rely on an overt verbal threat or the brandishing of the firearm.
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