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Bandit case goes to the jury

The 12 must sort out conflicting testimony to decide pair's fate.

By CARRIE WEIMAR
Published April 12, 2007


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TAMPA - After six days of testimony, jurors began deliberating Wednesday the fate of the man authorities believe is the Band-Aid Bandit and his alleged accomplice.

At 5:40 p.m., after an hour and 20 minutes of discussions, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday sent the jury of eight men and four women a note asking how long they planned to continue.

Jurors replied that they would adjourn at 6 p.m. and return today at 9 a.m.

Rafael Rondon, 47, and his former brother-in-law, Emeregildo Roman, are named in a 13-count indictment charging them with bank robbery, illegal use of firearms and conspiracy.

Authorities believe Rondon is the robber nicknamed the Band-Aid Bandit, accused of 39 robberies in the Tampa Bay area between 2000 and 2006. Rondon is his alleged accomplice.

The bandit received his moniker for wearing a bandage. Investigators contend it hid a mole on Rondon's face.

The pair could face more than 100 years in prison each if found guilty of all charges.

Earlier Wednesday, the attorneys made a last attempt to sway jurors during closing arguments.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Murphy Davis called the evidence "overwhelming." They robbed banks as easily as most people go to work in the morning, she said. "Terrorizing people for money became their way of life."

She ticked off the evidence:

Rondon's palm prints turned up at three banks. Both men resemble the heavily disguised suspects seen on surveillance tape. After being arrested, Roman admitted he had robbed banks for six years. They both appeared to live well beyond their means, buying new cars and playing golf often despite having little or no reported source of income.

Then there was the cooler in Rondon's garage, which held false wigs and mustaches, a ski mask, a revolver, makeup and more than $80,000 in cash, most of it still wrapped in bank straps.

Murphy Davis called it a "virtual bank robbery kit" and the "First National Bank of Igloo."

But Rondon's attorney, Daniel Hernandez, said Rondon's garage door wouldn't lock at the time of the arrest. "Ask yourself, is it logical that a shrewd bank robber would hide $80,000 in a closet in the garage when the garage door is broken?" he asked.

He also highlighted testimony earlier in the day from Rondon's parents, who said they paid for their son's comfortable lifestyle.

Rafael Rondon Sr., 79, Rondon's father, told jurors he gave his son $35,000 for a down payment on his house.

Rondon Sr., a retired U.S. Army colonel, said he also helped pay for his son's Lincoln Navigator and frequently gave him money to send to his ex-wife and four children in Puerto Rico.

Sandra Nicholson, Rondon's wife, also testified. She said she knew he was getting money from his parents and never questioned the amount he sent to his former wife or how he paid for his cars, which also included a Dodge Ram pickup and a Chevrolet Blazer.

Roman's attorney, Terry Christian, elected not to call any witnesses. During his closing argument, Christian said there was no physical evidence placing his client at the banks.

But Murphy Davis noted $90,000 was found in a plastic container in Roman's bedroom.

[Last modified April 12, 2007, 06:31:40]


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