Armed robber loses appeal of conviction, sentence

A man convicted of one armed robbery based in part on his ties to another potential robbery has failed to secure relief from either his conviction or sentence.

The case of Tevin B.S. Attkisson v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-2659, began in January 2017 when Tevin Attkisson donned a disguise and robbed Key Bank in Elkhart. Attkisson gave the teller a note indicating he had a gun and saying, “If the police show up, we all die.”

Attkisson left the bank with $2,681 in stolen cash, but he left behind his note. The bank manager then called the police.

Three weeks later, Attkisson was seen at Lake City Bank in Elkhart wearing large sunglasses and a hat and holding tightly to a bag. According to the teller who saw him, Attkisson entered the vestibule of the bank, looked inside, then left immediately.

The teller thought his behavior was unusual, so she reported it to Elkhart police. A responding officer canvassed the area and located Attkisson, who was wearing makeup to cover up tattoos on his face and neck. He initially gave a fake name, but identified himself once he was taken to the police station.

Attkisson was subsequently charged with Level 3 felony robbery while armed with a deadly weapon.

At trial, Attkisson objected to the introduction of evidence regarding his behavior at Lake City Bank’s pursuant to Indiana Evidence Rule 404(b), arguing its probative value was outweighed by its prejudice.

But the Elkhart Circuit Court overruled the objection, finding “sufficient evidence in this case for the [c]ourt to find by a preponderance of the evidence that [Attkisson] engaged in the act that we’re talking about at Lake City [Bank] and that those acts could be used by the State under 404(b)(2) for identification, motive, plan, modus operandi and … were necessary from the State’s perspective to complete the story of the alleged crime … .”

Attkisson was then found guilty as charged.

The trial court sentenced Attkisson to 16 years, with 14 years executed in the Indiana Department of Correction and two years suspended to probation. The court pointed to Attkisson’s family relationships, employment history and educational achievement as mitigating factors but also noted his criminal history and his use of a disguise and fake name, among other factors, as aggravators.

On appeal, Attkisson first challenged the admission of evidence regarding the events at Lake City Bank, arguing the trial court erred in finding it admissible under Evidence Rule 404(b)(2). But the Court of Appeals of Indiana, pointing to Bishop v. State, 40 N.E.3d 935 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015), determined he had a “signature crime” with a common MO.

“In both the charged and uncharged conduct, Attkisson was wearing a disguise,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote. “ … We find that the evidence surrounding the events at Lake City Bank was relevant to the identity of Attkisson as the person who robbed the Key Bank based on the unique elements of the disguise and makeup to cover the facial tattoos, and its probative value outweighed any unfair prejudice to Attkisson. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the evidence over Attkisson’s objection.”

The COA likewise rejected Attkisson’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence against him, pointing specifically to thenote that said, “I have a gun.” That “statement and implication,” the court found, was “evidence that he was in fact armed.”

The appellate court also looked to Gray v. State, 903 N.E.2d 940 (Ind. 2009), to find sufficient evidence.

“Referencing the evidence of identity admitted by the trial court over his objection, Attkisson now argues that because the trial court permitted evidence of the Lake City Bank events, noting the similarities between both robberies and the items he had in his possession, it is reasonable to assume that the same items were possessed during each event, and thus no deadly weapon was present in either robbery,” Riley wrote. “While certainly logical, we find Attkisson’s argument to be unpersuasive.

Gray clearly indicates that each event should be evaluated independently and on its own merits,” Riley continued. “… Similarly here, merely because no gun was located after the search upon Attkisson’s arrest following his presence at the Lake City Bank, does not permit us to speculate that no gun was present during the robbery at the Key Bank despite Attkisson’s statement to the contrary. Therefore, we affirm Attkisson’s conviction of robbery while armed with a deadly weapon as a Level 3 felony.”

Finally, the appellate court declined to revise Attkisson’s sentence under Indiana Appellate Rule 7(B).

“Attkisson committed a premediated crime that inflicted fear and trauma on a blameless victim,” Riley wrote. As to his character, the judge pointed to his lengthy criminal history, and to the trial court’s consideration of mitigators.

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