A Yolo County jury quickly reached a verdict on one of the two contested charges in the case of Eugene Lemasters.
This was an odd case. The attorneys agreed that Mr. Lemasters committed the robbery at Bank of America and the subsequent flight from police, but the stop at Wells Fargo remained at issue. The jury found Mr. Lemasters not guilty on the charge of attempted robbery there, and they hung 9-3 in favor of acquittal on the burglary charge.
The charge of burglary stemmed from whether Mr. Lemasters entered the Wells Fargo in Davis with the intent to commit a crime. The Wells Fargo surveillance video was less than clear. There was no visible note, and he did not appear to have the hose nozzle which he had used in the Bank of America incident.
Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson argued in his closing that the Lemasters family had several accounts with Wells Fargo. He argued that it is possible that Mr. Lemasters, in his desperate state, attempted to withdraw money from one of these accounts before he resorted to bank robbery elsewhere.
In a recorded interview with Detective Ron Trn, Mr. Lemasters admitted to entering the Wells Fargo bank with the intent to rob it. However, a member of the jury told the Vanguard that, while there was a confession, there was no other evidence to point to a crime in Wells Fargo.
He noted that Mr. Lemasters had confessed to a robbery in El Dorado County for many years and authorities there could find no evidence that such a robbery had occurred. It seemed likely that Mr. Lemasters, as Mr. Hutchinson put it, was panicked, fearful and delusional. “He was a mental train wreck—at his wit’s end.”
The jury, therefore, on the only two charges that were contested, found that he was not guilty of robbery, but three jurors held out for guilt on the burglary charge.
Closing Arguments in Lemasters Trial
By Jackie Snyder and Lauren King
The evidence portion of the Eugene Lemasters trial concluded June 4, 2015. The jury was called down late morning and was then dismissed shortly after for an early lunch break. They were asked to return at 1:30pm for closing arguments and an explanation of the jury instructions.
The majority of the morning session was spent on last minute touches for jury instructions, as well as deciding which exhibits would be allowed/entered into evidence.
Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes and Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson, who butted heads on several occasions throughout the trial, had disagreements on jury instructions as well.
The jury was dismissed for lunch early for exactly that reason. Both parties were allowed additional time to make changes to their instructions and resubmit.
Closing arguments, in the case against Eugene Lemasters, were heard on the afternoon of June 4, 2015, at the Yolo County Superior Courthouse. DDA Hasapes conducted a closing argument on the behalf of the People.
According to Mr. Hasapes, Mr. Lemasters was a desperate man. The defendant was recently reunited with his family and was entrusted with money from his wife and the duty of paying the family’s bills. However, instead of submitting the money to the respective billing agencies, Mr. Lemasters lost the entirety while gambling at a casino in Oroville. Mrs. Lemasters had only recently begun to trust her husband again, and the defendant could not bear to disappoint her.
A desperate man, certainly—however, one capable of rational thought. Mr. Hasapes argued that the foundation of a plan was hatched while Mr. Lemasters was still at the Oroville casino. He planned how to best get away with the robbery and the location where he would find the least trouble. During an hour-long drive, Mr. Lemasters continued weaving all of the details together. He made the conscious decision to stop in Davis, where he believed that the banks would not be equipped with armed guards. He wrote a note to give to the bank tellers, and he found an object that would resemble a gun from the inside of his waistband.
Mr. Hasapes depicted a man with a very specific and calculated plan. This plan’s criteria were not met when he entered the Wells Fargo in Downtown Davis. In a recorded interview with Detective Ron Trn, Mr. Lemasters admitted to entering the Wells Fargo with the intent to rob it. Also pointed out by Mr. Hasapes, the defendant’s wallet was left in his car when he entered the bank. This creates doubt that Mr. Lemasters had a legitimate purpose for being inside the Wells Fargo. Mr. Lemasters is not a Davis native and therefore another Wells Fargo location would have been more convenient to do business in. The Wells Fargo had two male bank tellers and this did not fit the plan’s criteria. Mr. Lemasters has been charged with the attempted robbery of Wells Fargo as well as burglary.
Mr. Lemasters has also been charged with the robbery of the Bank of America in Downtown Davis. Mr. Lemasters entered the second bank and handed his note to the female teller. The note threatened, “I’m carrying a pistol and I know how to use it…let me leave and I won’t shoot everyone.” The note instructed her to put the money in the defendant’s supplied bag and to allow him safe departure. A water hose nozzle was disguised inside Mr. Lemasters’ waistband, suggesting that a pistol was, indeed, present. Mr. Lemasters used the fear of force to rob the bank, an element of Count 1. Surveillance videos showed evidence of these events and the material components. Mr. Lemasters later confessed to robbing the Bank of America only fifteen minutes after he decided it was a bad idea to rob the Wells Fargo. The defendant’s wallet remained in his vehicle.
Lastly, the defendant has been charged with evasion of a police officer and driving in a reckless manner. There is video evidence, through an officer’s dash camera, of Mr. Lemasters fleeing from law enforcement in a brown or gold Kia. He was being pursued by four or five officers during the chase through Downtown Davis. Mr. Lemasters reached speeds of over 100mph, drove on the wrong side of the road on three occasions, committing at least eight traffic offenses during the pursuit.
Mr. Hutchinson claimed that only Counts 2 and 3 were in dispute by the defense. These are the charges regarding Wells Fargo. Mr. Hutchinson spoke of a different Eugene Lemasters. This Mr. Lemasters was panicked, fearful, and delusional. “He was a mental train wreck—at his wit’s end.” Mr. Lemasters was said to experience delusions about another robbery at a bank in El Dorado County, however, it is believed that this other robbery never actually occurred. The Lemasters family has heard tell of this El Dorado bank robbery for many years. Mr. Lemasters was certain that this robbery took place when he spoke with Det. Trn. Mr. Hutchinson asserted that the defendant’s history of delusional thought undermines the credibility of previous statements. The deputy public defender also noted that the Lemasters family had several accounts with Wells Fargo. He argued that it is possible that Mr. Lemasters, in his desperate state, attempted to withdraw money from one of these accounts before he resorted to bank robbery. The Wells Fargo surveillance video is less clear. A note was not visible and neither was the hose nozzle.
Both attorneys agree that Mr. Lemasters committed the robbery at Bank of America and the subsequent flight from police, but the stop at Wells Fargo remains at issue. The jury was excused for deliberation at the end of the afternoon, and they now carry the burden of answering the case’s questions. New information will be disclosed when available.