Rob A Dollar General; Get Sent To Federal Prison

There are a lot of state-level crimes for which you can also be prosecuted for at the Federal level. Under the “things I learned en route to looking up other things” category comes this 7/31/15 release from the BATFE which caught my eye for semi-obvious reasons.

Buncombe Co. Man Sentenced to More Than 10 Years in Prison on Armed Robbery and Gun Charges

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Anthony Lamont Hill, 31, of Fletcher, N.C., was sentenced today to 121 months in prison for his role in the 2013 armed robbery of a Dollar General store in Woodfin, N.C., announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Senior U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen also sentenced Hill to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $4,750 as restitution.

Acting U.S. Attorney Rose is joined in making today’s announcement by Dewey “Craig” Chillcott, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Charlotte Field Division, and Chief Brett Holloman of the Woodfin Police Department.

According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, in August 2013, Hill robbed at gunpoint a Dollar General store located in Woodfin. Court records show that Hill and his accomplice entered the store right before closing time. According to court records, Hill and his conspirator ordered two store employees to remove most of their clothing and proceeded to tie them up. Hill and his accomplice attempted to destroy the store’s security system, before fleeing with approximately $2,500 in cash they had taken from the store’s register, court records show. Hill pleaded guilty in December 2014 to one count of Hobbs Act robbery and one count of possessing and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

Hill remains in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

The investigation was handled by ATF and the Woodfin Police Department. The prosecution for the government was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney John D. Pritchard of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.

I had never heard of a “Hobbs Act robbery” before so I had to look it up. The Hobbs Act was enacted in 1946 to combat racketeering. Primarily aimed at labor-management disputes, it made the interference with commerce by “robbery or extortion” a Federal crime. In other words, the Hobbs Act was aimed at the Mafia infiltration of labor unions post-WWII. It is 18 US Code § 1951.

Under North Carolina law (NCGS § 14-87), armed robbery is a Class D felony which under the current sentencing guidelines could be punished with up to 160 months imprisonment. However, the presumptive range which depends upon prior offenses and any aggravating factors would have been somewhere between 51 and 128 months of incarceration.

Now I understand why the Woodfin Police Department referred this to Federal authorities for prosecution. They wanted Anthony Lamont Hill to serve some hard time without the possibility of parole for coming into their little town of 6,000 and robbing their Dollar General store. BATFE and the US Attorneys’ Office probably saw this as a way to burnish their conviction statistics.

I understand why Hill was prosecuted under Federal law but there remains the question of whether some local thug should have been prosecuted using a law obviously aimed at the Mafia. Given the torturous connection to interstate commerce (gun was made out of state as were most of the goods sold), philosophically I’m inclined to say armed robbery, other than of a FDIC-insured bank or post office, ought to be prosecuted under state law and by the local district attorney. That it can be prosecuted by the US Attorney goes to show just how broad the purview of the Federal government has become over the years. Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll ever see a reversal of this trend.