7th Circuit affirms Indianapolis man’s robbery convictions

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A man found guilty of robbing three Indianapolis beauty stores and attempting to rob another could not convince the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that there wasn’t enough evidence to support his convictions, or that one did not qualify as a crime of violence under the Hobbs Act.

In USA v. Kevin Ingram, 19-1403, Kevin Ingram was sentenced to more than 40 years in federal prison after a weeklong string of Indianapolis robberies and one attempted robbery in 2017. The crimes took place at two different beauty salons and a beauty supply store, where Ingram threatened store clerks at gunpoint and demanded money.

A fourth attempted robbery of a Dollar Tree store failed when Ingram fled the scene after a clerk was unable to open the cash register. Ingram was later charged with three counts of Hobbs Act robbery, one count of attempted Hobbs Act robbery under 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a), and four counts of brandishing a firearm in connection with each of those crimes of violence.

Ingram pleaded guilty to the first four counts but fought the firearm charges, moving for a directed verdict on Counts 5-8 under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29. He argued that the government had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the object he had brandished during the robberies was a firearm.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana rejected Ingram’s argument and a jury ultimately found him guilty of all eight counts. Taking the issue to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Ingram argued there was insufficient evidence to support that he brandished a firearm in Count 5. He also argued that his conviction in Count 8 could not stand because attempted Hobbs Act robbery is not a crime of violence.

In affirming the district court, the 7th Circuit first concluded that the evidence both parties agreed was properly before the jury on Count 5 was sufficient for a reasonable jury to find that Ingram had brandished a firearm during the first robbery.

Specifically, the 7th Circuit found that Ingram’s girlfriend had witnessed him brandish a gun in her car after the second robbery the next day, and that Ingram conceded that the jury could properly consider her testimony as circumstantial evidence that Ingram had a firearm during the first robbery.

“Third, a reasonable inference from this circumstantial evidence is that when the clerk felt a hard, metal object shoved against her back the night of October 16, she was feeling the firearm (Vyctorya) Cobb saw the next day,” Circuit Judge Joel Flaum wrote. “Finally, there is absolutely no evidence to support the notion that the object in question was anything other than a gun.”

The 7th Circuit further rejected Ingram’s assertion that his conviction on Count 4 for attempted Hobbs Act robbery could serve as the predicate offense for his conviction on Count 8 under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A).

“…[I]n Hill v. United States, we explained that ‘[w]hen a substantive offense would be a violent felony under [18 U.S.C.] § 924(e) and similar statutes, an attempt to commit that offense also is a violent felony’ so as long as the attempted offense ‘requires proof of intent to commit all elements of the completed crime,’” the panel concluded. “And, given § 924(e) and § 924(c) use almost identical language, we extend Hill’s ruling to § 924(c) as well.”

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