When it comes to crime, anyone who helps the actual perpetrator is considered equally guilty in the eyes of the law.
RONALD MICHAEL YOUNG learned that the hard way. Although his buddy Geoffrey Rogers, 43, was the person who actually robbed five banks, Young — who "just" drove the getaway car — ended up receiving two more years in prison for his role than did Rogers.
Young, 39, was sentenced last Friday to 12 years for robbing a bank in Chantilly. And added to the other sentences he's already received for a string of bank heists last year, he must now serve a total of 44 years behind bars.
However, he's no stranger to prison and, in fact, that's where he and Rogers met during a prior incarceration. When they were released, Young visited Rogers in Paducah, Ky., where he lived. Then they both went to Manassas, where Young lived, and embarked upon a bank-robbery spree in two counties.
Together, they held up three banks in Fairfax County and two in Loudoun County in spring 2006:
* March 17 — United Bank, Fair Lakes Shopping Center, Fairfax.
* March 28 — BB&T Bank, Lee Jackson Memorial Highway, Chantilly.
* March 30 — Virginia Commerce Bank, Metrotech Drive, Chantilly; BB&T Bank, Ashburn; and Provident Bank, Sterling.
Authorities captured them April 16, 2006 in Prince William County, after a botched carjacking attempt there. Since then, both men either stood trial or entered pleas in each of the cases and were convicted every time.
Rogers was sentenced to a total of 42 years in prison — 24 years from Fairfax County and 18 years from Loudoun. Young received 20 years from Loudoun, plus 24 years from Fairfax County.
In court Friday, he received his final sentence — the dozen years a jury this summer had recommended he serve for robbing the Virginia Commerce Bank.
His trial was July 10-11, in Fairfax County Circuit Court. And Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Camille Turner called the bank teller, 29, as her first witness. (Centre View is not revealing the woman's identity since she was a victim).
She was working at Virginia Commerce Bank when Rogers entered it, the morning of March 30, 2006. Through the window, she saw a man extinguish his cigarette and walk quickly toward the bank and then toward her.
"HE HAD sunglasses on his head and was wearing a black, leather jacket," she said. "He leaned his hands forward on the counter and said, "Give me all your cash and nobody will get hurt."
"I froze; I was kinda scared," said the woman. "I've been a teller for many years and I've never been in that situation before. He asked me to open my drawer and give him the hundred-dollar bills, and then he asked me for the fifties, the twenties and the tens. I followed his instructions."
She explained that, in the event of a robbery, she'd been taught "to just do what they ask." In this case, she handed over $2,700 — and something else.
"I also gave him a dye pack — a device that looks like a pack of $1,000 in twenties — but it has ink inside and, once it passes the sensor at the door, it will go off and spread red ink around the money, [making it] no use," she said. The ink also gets on the robber's hands, she added, making him easier to identify.
The teller said the robber put the dye pack and cash inside his jacket and left, and she pressed the alarm and called her manager.
A customer testified that, before entering the bank around the time of the robbery, she saw a man in a dark jacket smoking outside the bank. And Tony Tong, who owns a nearby barbershop, said he was giving a haircut when, through his shop window, he saw "a man running with red smoke coming out from inside his jacket."
Tong said the man entered a vehicle parked in front of his shop, with its engine running and lights on, opened the back door on the passenger side, pulled a package from his clothing and threw it inside the car.
Then, said Tong, "He opened the front door on the passenger side. I noticed there was another person on the driver's side, and the car pulled out and drove away."
Police Det. Gary Bailey obtained a bank surveillance photo of the robber and submitted it to the media, hoping someone would identify him. A Crime Solvers call identified Rogers as the robber and led him to Prince William's jail, where both Rogers and Young were incarcerated.
ALTHOUGH BAILEY wasn't allowed to tell the jury that the pair knew each other from prison, he said Rogers invited Young to his home in Kentucky for a possible job. There was no job, but the men then drove back together to Manassas where Young then lived.
When Bailey questioned Young in jail about this bank robbery, he said Young told him "Rogers smoked a cigarette and then went into the bank. [Young] stated Rogers robbed the bank and he drove him away. Young indicated he received $850 in payment for rent [from the robbery]."
Bailey said Young told him the jacket Rogers wore during the robbery was in his (Young's) home, and police went there and seized it. In court, robbery Det. James Hardy showed the jury the jacket and the red-dye stain inside it.
Rogers testified that he robbed the bank, but said Young didn't drive the getaway car. But Turner got Rogers to admit he'd been convicted of 14 felonies — including crimes involving lying, cheating or stealing.
Bailey also testified that Rogers told him Young drove the vehicle used in the robbery. And Turner said Young was able to locate this, particular bank on a map for Bailey.
"There was a concert of action between the two men — there was a plan, a design, a scheme," said Turner in her closing argument. "That makes Young equally culpable under the law for Mr. Rogers' actions."
Graham said nothing proved the pair planned the robbery together, nor did any evidence link Young to it. But Turner said Young knew all the minute details about the heist because he was there in person. "These two have a long history and the defendant received a portion of the proceeds," she said. "That's evidence of his intent."
On July 12, the jury found Young guilty and recommended 12 years incarceration. He returned last Friday, Oct. 26, for sentencing before Judge Gaylord Finch.
"IT'S OBVIOUS, based on his previous record and the fact that he hasn't cooperated with the probation office, that Mr. Young doesn't care, anymore, and is going to do whatever he's going to do," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Faraji Rosenthall. "He's made no effort to mitigate [his actions] in any way, shape or form, so I ask the court to impose the jury's sentence in its entirety."
Graham said her client's behavior was due to his "frustration that the jurors didn't understand his position, relative to Mr. Rogers' — who actually committed the robbery. Also, it was the last of a series of incidents happening in close proximity to each other."
Asking Finch to sentence Young to six years in prison plus three years post-release supervision, Graham stressed that Rogers received eight years for this, particular robbery "for actually going in and demanding the money."
The judge agreed to the latter half of her request, but sentenced Young to the jury's recommended 12 years. Afterward, Graham said, "He got a fair trial, and that's all you can ask for."