COA affirms teens’ robbery charges

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The Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed the denial of two teens’ motions to dismiss their felony robbery charges after they allegedly stole from a mini mart and battered an employee who tried to stop them.

In Johnathan Olson and Austin J. Mahoney v. State of Indiana,19A-CR-00773, teenagers Johnathan Olson, Austin Mahoney and four other minors were confronted by Terre Haute Jiffy Mini Mart employee Robert Bailey when they were caught stealing items from the store. After the teens left the store, Bailey followed them into the parking lot where the teens proceeded to beat him up, punching and kicking him in the head and stomach.

The teens fled the scene, but Olson and Mahoney were ultimately charged with Level 2 felony robbery and set to be tried as adults. The other teens were younger than 16, and one cohort was determined by a juvenile court to have committed theft instead of robbery. Olson and Mahoney subsequently filed motions to dismiss the robbery charges pending against each of them, arguing that their minor cohorts’ adjudication for theft based on the juvenile court’s finding that there was no evidence of a robbery was “conclusive” evidence that a robbery did not occur.

However, the appellate court affirmed the denial of the defendants’ motions to dismiss, finding that the charging documents were facially sufficient to support the robbery charges.

“While the State has not alleged that Mahoney used force at the very moment he took the cigars from the Jiffy Mini Mart, our Supreme Court has held that the ‘use of force’ element in the robbery statute is satisfied where ‘the person in lawful possession of the property resists before the thief has removed the property from the premises or from the person’s presence,’” Judge Edward Najam Jr. wrote for the appellate court.

“Here, in the charging informations, the State alleged that Olson and Mahoney took the cigars from Jiffy Mini Mart and/or from the presence of Bailey by using or threatening the use of force. The probable cause affidavits state that Bailey followed Olson and Mahoney and the others out of the store and into the parking lot, and it was there and then that Mahoney and others battered Bailey,” the panel wrote. “Thus, the charging documents are facially sufficient to support the robbery charges.”

The appellate court noted that whether the evidence will be sufficient to prove the robbery charges will ultimately be determined at trial, concluding that at this stage, the trial court did not err when it denied Olson’s and Mahoney’s motions to dismiss the robbery charges.

It further disagreed with the defendants’ contention that the state is barred by collateral estoppel from prosecuting the teens for robbery. Specifically, the teens argued that because a juvenile court found the evidence insufficient to support their minor cohorts’ adjudication as a delinquent for committing robbery, the state was bound by that adjudication in the instant cases.

But the appellate court concluded that because neither Olson nor Mahoney was a party in the juvenile court’s adjudication, collateral estoppel does not apply in their case. Thus, it concluded, the state was not barred from prosecuting them for robbery.

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