Jury convicts man of post-casino robbery
URBANA — A Peoria man convicted by the technology of surveillance cameras and cell phone towers faces up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced next month.
A Champaign County jury took a little more than an hour Wednesday to convict Marvino Mister, 24, of Peoria, of the April 12 armed robbery of a University of Illinois student who had just returned from an East Peoria casino with several thousand dollars in winnings from a craps table.
The robbery happened in the underground parking garage of the building at 512 S. Third St., C, where Harrigan, 23, was living at the time. He has since graduated from the UI.
Harrigan told the jury that he and his two friends arrived at the complex just before 6 a.m. after having spent about eight hours gambling at the Par-A-Dice casino. His friends got out of the passenger side of the car as he started to get out of the driver's seat, holding his $23,000 in cash in his hand.
Seeing a man walking up to him quickly, Harrigan sat on most of the cash as the robber stuck a gun in his face and demanded his money. Harrigan told the robber he didn't have any money but when the robber threatened to start shooting, he handed over about $2,500 cash, a cell phone and a casino card from his pants pocket.
A light-colored car then entered the garage and the robber ran in the direction of it. Harrigan and friends, meantime, ran toward the stairwell to his apartment, where they called police at 5:56 a.m.
Police contacted the casino, where security experts checked surveillance tape and focused in on a white man, later identified as John Williamson, 28, also of Peoria, as a suspect, because of his actions and his nearness to Harrigan throughout the evening.
But when police told the casino security people that the robber was a black man, they looked more closely and found evidence of Mister, who is black, having been in and around the casino with Williamson. Both men presented their identification, which is recorded, to be admitted to the casino.
Champaign police also contacted cell phone companies to learn the location of Mister's and Williamson's cell phones on the days before and after the robbery.
Champaign police detective Robb Morris testified that phone records showed that there were five calls made between Williamson and Mister between 11:48 p.m. on April 11 and 12:04 a.m. April 12. Williams had arrived at the casino at 11:15 p.m. and Mister at 12:04 a.m.
In an interview with Morris and another detective, Mister initially denied knowing Williamson but later admitted that he had last seen him at the casino.
On Tuesday, jurors watched more than an hour of video surveillance tape from the casino purporting to show Williamson and Mister in and out of the casino and leaving together in a light-colored car, not long after Harrigan's car left the lot.
Morris also testified that cell phone records showed that Williamson's phone was either making or receiving calls as it traveled east from Peoria along Interstate 74 to Champaign. Calls were made to the phone of another man — not Mister — from near LeRoy at 5:21 a.m. then again at 5:48 a.m. The robbery was reported at 5:56 a.m. and the next call to the other man was made at 6:06 a.m. in the immediate vicinity of Champaign.
Subsequent calls were either made or received between Williamson and the third man at 6:15 a.m. near Champaign, 6:48 a.m. northwest of LeRoy, 6:57 a.m. in the Bloomington area, 7:08 a.m. between Bloomington and Peoria, and at 7:36 a.m. near Peoria.
Morris said there were no calls between Williamson and Mister after the robbery. He said Mister's phone either died or was powered off at 3:12 a.m. on April 12. At 7:33 a.m., there was a call from Mister's girlfriend's phone to Williamson's.
Harrigan picked Mister out of a photo lineup on the day of the robbery and said he was 80 percent to 85 percent sure he was the robber.
Defense attorney Harvey Welch of Urbana, who called no witnesses on behalf of Mister, argued that the spate of calls to the other man and Harrigan's tentative identification of Mister constituted reasonable doubt.
The timing of the calls was important, Welch said, noting that the last call to the third man was at 5:48 a.m., about 90 seconds before the robbery happened.
But Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark countered that Williamson, who didn't know where the victims were going, would not have had time to tell the other man how to get there. But he would have had plenty of time to make phone calls from the get-away car while waiting for Mister to carry out the robbery, she contended. She also noted that the call made to Williamson's phone from Mister's girlfriend at 7:33 a.m. on April 12 was because Mister was probably still with Williamson instead of home with her.
Harrigan's phone was never found nor was his money ever recovered.
Judge Tom Difanis set sentencing for Jan. 18.
Williamson's case is unresolved. He is due back in court Dec. 18.