AP NEWS

Attorneys debate role of suspected accomplices in fatal ATM robberies

March 19, 2019

The alleged ringleader and mastermind of a deadly shoot-first-rob-later armored truck scheme was notably absent Tuesday during opening arguments in Houston federal court for four men accused of helping the sniper killed in a shootout with police.

That was the one point the government lawyers and the defense agreed on.

Where they differed was about the knowing participation of each of the suspected accomplices in the scheme.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Winter said that on on Aug. 29, 2016, Redrick Batiste, the slain crime boss, fired three shots at the courier replenishing the cash at a Wells Fargo ATM at U.S. 290 and Hollister. As the victim, David Guzman, lay dying, the prosecutor said, Nelson Alexander Polk drove up and another man scooped up bags containing what turned out to be $120,000. She said another defendant, Marc Anthony Hill, was in the vicinity of the bank at the time. Testimony would show both men spent hours scoping the bank, she said.

The alleged driver’s lawyer, Nicole DeBorde argued that Batiste was a flashy, dynamic man with a secret criminal side and Polk had no idea what he was doing was criminal. Hill, who is Polk’s uncle and is representing himself, said he was doing something else in the area and had no role in the crime. Both men also denied involvement in another scheme, on Dec. 7 at an Amegy bank.

The prosecutor said Hill and John Edward Scott, another defendant, can be heard in tapped phone calls with Batiste in which he discussed another possible shooting at a bank they were considering in November. Scott is also accused of renting a hotel room where the men planned to gather before and after the December crime. Scott’s lawyer, George Michael DeGeurin, Jr., said his client’s only error was in being lifelong friends with Batiste, but he said Scott didn’t have any idea Batiste was involved in crime.

Winter said the fourth defendant, Bennie Charles Phillips, Jr. recruited the man who would grab the cash at the bank. Phillips’ lawyer, David Cunningham, argued his client played no role whatsoever at the Amegy bank heist which ended with Batiste’s death in a fatal shootout with police.

gabrielle.banks@chron.com