Champaign man convicted of Savoy armed robbery
URBANA — A Champaign man who a prosecutor said was the mastermind behind the holdup of a Savoy fast-food restaurant faces up to 45 years in prison when he's sentenced in September.
A Champaign County jury deliberated about three hours before convicting Sherman K. Bragg, 21, who last lived in the 1600 block of West Bradley Avenue, of the July 3, 2013, armed robbery of the Sonic Drive-In, 101 Calvin St.
Jurors also found that the weapon used during the robbery was a real gun, not a BB gun, meaning that Bragg faces up to 15 years on top of the normal range of six to 30 years for armed robbery alone.
Testimony in his three-day trial before Judge Tom Difanis revealed that Bragg enlisted his girlfriend and two other men — all of whom are now in prison — to help carry out the holdup.
The gunman, Devin McClendon, 19, who last lived in the 400 block of East Beardsley Avenue, Champaign, was sentenced to 22 years in prison in August after he pleaded guilty to armed robbery for entering the business, threatening two male employees with a gun, and taking cash.
Tawan Williamson, 18, of the 500 block of North Edwin Street, Champaign, was sentenced in March to 71/2 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to armed robbery. He was identified as the getaway car driver.
And Natasha Duvall, 20, the former girlfriend of Bragg, was sentenced last August to eight years in prison for armed robbery. An employee of the restaurant who was working at the time of the holdup, Duvall admitted she knew Bragg was planning the robbery and that she cooperated with McClendon when he rushed in, threatened her co-workers and took the cash that she was counting.
It was her calm demeanor throughout the otherwise terrifying ordeal for the other two employees that made her an immediate suspect, investigators said at the time of the crime.
Duvall testified against Bragg on Tuesday, outlining telephone calls and texts she received from Bragg as she worked in the hours before the holdup.
Assistant State's Attorney Stephanie Weber argued that the text messages between the couple proved his involvement while Bragg's attorney, Roderick Wimberly of Chicago, tried to portray Bragg as a follower, not a planner, who tried to withdraw from the plan at the last minute.
Weber also presented evidence from a friend of Bragg who said Bragg approached him on July 2 looking for a gun to use in a robbery. She also had sheriff's investigators testify about cash and items they found in a motel room in Urbana after the robbery that were linked to Duvall and Bragg.
"How much in deposits?" "Are the doors unlocked?" "We're on the way." "Delete your messages."
"Those are the words of a man who planned this," Weber argued as she read for the jury texts that Bragg sent to Duvall. "He was a big part of the team. He is as guilty as the one who pulled the gun."
Wimberly focused much of his argument on the fact that the state had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the gun used in the holdup was a real firearm. The gun was never recovered by police. He said the Sonic employees who had it held to their necks only felt a metal object, they never saw it up close.
Difanis set sentencing for Bragg for Sept. 4.