Three years for parking lot robbery

Car chase aggravating feature

Hasani Levy, 31, was sentenced to three years in prison after a jury found him guilty of robbery, but not guilty of possessing an imitation firearm to commit the offence.

Levy, an accountant who earned $50,000 a year, had no previous convictions and maintained his innocence after the verdict.

Trial took place in September, but Levy was not sentenced until 28 November because Defence Attorney Keith Collins suggested that a Social Inquiry Report would assist the court.

During the trial, as summarised by Justice Charles Quin, the robbery victim said he drove to the Sunset House parking lot after 11pm on 23 November, 2007. He was walking toward the bar when he heard footsteps behind him. He then saw two men wearing ski masks. One grabbed him from behind and the other came in front and put a gun to his left cheek. He was told to hand over his wallet, which had $350 in it.

In the incident he also lost his keys, which one of the robbers picked up, and his cell phone, which was recovered in the parking lot.

Called 911

The men left in a dark car he recognised as a Toyota Windom. He reported the matter to 911.

Shortly afterwards, a police officer on patrol saw a dark Toyota Windom heading toward West Bay. He followed it and then used his blue lights and siren. The Toyota stopped, but when the officer got out of his vehicle, the Toyota took off at a high speed. Soon after, it crashed into a wall on Powell Smith Drive.

Both the driver and the passenger got out and ran. The officer caught the driver, Hasani Levy, while the other man escaped.

The robbery victim’s keys were found in Levy’s car, but no gun was recovered from anywhere. No wallet or masks were recovered, either.

Questioned by police, Levy said he was not at Sunset House with another man between 11-11.45pm. Asked where he was, he remained silent.

Levy told police he was going to visit his wife, who lived in West Bay. He picked up a hitchhiker a little past Seven Mile Beach. He said he panicked when the police stopped him because he didn’t have insurance.

Gave evidence

Justice Quin reminded the jurors that Levy chose not to give evidence and he was perfectly entitled not to. He had relied on the interview with police; since that was not given under oath it did not have the same weight as evidence from the witness box.

Levy did call character witnesses, all of whom expressed disbelief that he would be involved in such behaviour. His uncle said he expressly questioned Levy. His words were ‘Tell me what you were doing the night of this incident.’

Levy’s reply was ‘I was nowhere near that place.’

A lot of this case could be described as circumstantial, Justice Quin said. Circumstantial evidence can be powerful, but it must be examined with care. Jurors had to ask themselves if the evidence was reliable; did it prove guilt; were there any other circumstances that weakened or destroyed the Prosecution’s case?

The jury deliberated about two and a half hours before returning unanimous verdicts.

At the sentencing hearing, Justice Quin asked if there were any prospects of an arrest of the second person involved in the robbery. Crown Counsel John Masters, who conducted the prosecution, said he had heard nothing further.

The judge said Levy was taking the rap for two people.

Defence Attorney Keith Collins reminded the court that Levy was found not guilty of any firearm offence. Some force was used, he agreed, but the victim was not hit over the head or caused bodily harm.

Mr. Collins pointed to sentencing guidelines of 18 months to three years when no weapon is involved. That would not be appropriate for someone who had previous convictions for violence, but this was Levy’s first.

Mr. Masters said the car chase was an aggravating feature. But Mr. Collins said Levy’s driving offences that night had been dealt with in Summary Court. He had been fined $920 and disqualified from driving, so he should not be punished twice.

In passing sentence, Justice Quin told Levy he was taking into account what Mr. Collins and the pre-sentence report said. Levy did have a very good work record and it was a shame it was had been spoiled by this robbery.

Although Levy was not convicted of having an imitation firearm, the victim saw it. Under the circumstances, it would be no less terrifying than a real firearm and that was an aggravating feature.

The judge arrived at the sentence of three years, calling it fairly light.