Sprint store robber testifies that man on trial was his driver

Sprint store robber testifies that man on trial was his driver

URBANA — A Kankakee man serving a 19-year prison sentence for robbing a Champaign cellphone store at gunpoint told a federal jury that Randy Williams was the person who drove him to and from the store.

"I was the one that had the gun, and it was my job to go in first," Thomas James, 34, testified Wednesday on the second day of Williams' trial.

James, a multiple-convicted felon with a sixth-grade education, said he decided to cooperate with the government in the prosecution of Williams because he "thought it was the right thing."

Under questioning by defense attorney David Rumley, James said he had no problems with Williams but ultimately admitted he hopes his sentence might be reduced. He said government prosecutors have made no promises to him.

Williams, 28, is the fourth of five men involved in the July 28, 2016, holdup of the Sprint store at 2706 N. Prospect Ave., C, to have his case addressed.

James, Andrew Nunn, 27, and Jaevontae Williams, 24, all of Kankakee, have all pleaded guilty.

James' plea also involved the Aug. 6, 2016, armed robbery of a Kankakee Circle K.

U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce, who is presiding, sentenced James in December. Nunn and Jaevontae Williams are awaiting sentencing by Bruce on June 25 and July 23, respectively. A fifth man has not been found.

Randy Williams, 28, is charged with interference with commerce by threat or violence for allegedly driving one of the two getaway cars used in the Sprint store robbery.

About 7:45 p.m., near closing time on that rainy Thursday night, James said Williams drove him to the store and waited in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo while James went in first. Store surveillance video corroborates what James said.

Moments later, after James showed the two employees and two customers his weapon, the third man in the car, "Gusto," later identified as Nunn, came in wearing a mask over his face and socks on his hands.

James said he and Nunn used zip ties to bind the male employees and a mother and son who were buying a phone. They then loaded two "industrial-size garbage bags" with 116 electronic items.

Most of those were brand-new iPhones, but there were also a few electronic tablets. The total value of everything taken was $50,708, testimony revealed.

Thomas said the plan had been cooked up about a month earlier by the fifth man — Andre — who has yet to be located. Andre and Jaevontae Williams were in a dark sport utility vehicle that was also waiting in the parking lot of the store.

"The plan was to catch the store right before it closed, so there wouldn't be that many people in there," James testified.

He said that when he and Nunn left the store, each toting a bag of loot, he tried to put his in the trunk of the Monte Carlo, but a stereo speaker inside didn't leave enough room. He threw his bag in the back seat and Williams drove off, headed for I-57.

James said once they were on the highway, Randy Williams pulled the Monte Carlo over at the direction of Andre, who was in the SUV. James and Nunn got in the SUV with the stolen goods and Jaevontae Williams got in the Monte Carlo with his cousin, Randy Williams, still driving.

About 50 minutes later, Randy Williams was pulled over in Ashkum by Illinois State troopers who had been alerted about the robbery. In the Monte Carlo were four cellphones, including one taken from the male customer at Sprint.

James said he and the two others in the SUV drove by the stopped Monte Carlo as they headed to Chicago with the stolen merchandise.

While Champaign police Detective Jim Bednarz interviewed Randy Williams — who denied being in Champaign that night — James said he and the others took their booty to a "clothing store where they sell phones, clothes, stuff like that."

Andre took it inside and returned with cash, reporting he got a total of $6,600 for the more than $50,000 worth of stolen electronics. James said his share was $2,200, but he suspected that Andre and Nunn were ripping him off.

"I'm not in their circle of friends. I don't really hang with them," he said.

James said Randy Williams later told him that neither he nor Jaevontae Williams ever got any proceeds from the holdup.

The government is expected to wrap up its case against Williams by mid-day Thursday. Depending on if Rumley calls witnesses for his client, the jury could begin deliberating in the afternoon.

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