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Saturday, November 21, 2009

2 bank robbers get the max

Two of the men involved in the robbery of Mountain Valley Bank in Mill Creek in December 2008 were sentenced for their roles in the crime Friday morning in Randolph County Circuit Court.

Randolph County Circuit Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong sentenced Carl A. Hughes, 24, and Joshua Pennington, 23, to the maximum penalties for their felony convictions. Hughes received 11 to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count each of bank robbery and conspiracy, both felonies. Pennington was sentenced to one to five years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy, a felony. Both men were also fined $10,000 each.

Hughes was represented by attorney Russell Stobbs and Pennington was represented by attorney Tim Prentice.

Prior to handing down Hughes' sentence, Wilfong said she was imposing the maximum penalty but still doesn't think it's enough.

"Any sentence I impose cannot repair the damage that you have done, not only to the employees of this bank but everyone in this community," Wilfong said. "Bank robbery just isn't something that is supposed to happen here. This is a nice, quiet, law-abiding community. You're not even from here. You came from outside of our county and committed a horrible offense ... I'm sentencing you to the maximum sentence that I can give you, but quite frankly I don't think it's enough."

Following the hearings, Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Richard T. Busch said the safety of the community is "paramount," and placing the men in prison for a lengthy term helps ensure that safety.

"I believe that the true essence of the crime was not the taking of the $20,000," Busch said. "Yes, Hughes and Pennington stole $20,000, but more importantly they stole the safety and the security and the comfort of these employees. When the employees went to work that day, they were thinking about Christmas and New Years, they weren't thinking about having a gun put in their face ... Once someone has a gun pointed at their head and their life threatened, nothing can change that. The horrible memories of the Mountain Valley Bank robbery will never go away."

Mountain Valley Bank President Dick Harvey also spoke at both hearings. He was accompanied by two bank employees, but neither addressed the court.

During Hughes' hearing, Harvey said the robbery has had a "traumatic effect" on the bank's employees.

"During the holiday season last year, our good and honest, hard-working employees were confronted by somebody coming in the bank who was very loud and abrasive with a loaded gun," Harvey said. "By the grace of God, no customers came into the bank. Who knows what would have happened at that point. The trauma and psychological distress and terror our folks experienced that day were beyond description."

Hughes did not speak on his own behalf during his hearing.

Pennington told the court he did not know Hughes was going to use his car to rob the bank. Instead, he said he thought Hughes was going to use the car to rob a drug dealer living in the community.

"I just want to apologize to the victims and the community for even getting involved in the crime," Pennington said. "I had no prior knowledge of the bank being robbed. Although, I did conspire to receive the stolen money. I had my choice to turn the offer down and I chose to accept the money."

Hughes and Pennington were named in a nine-count indictment that accused the duo of conspiring to rob Mountain Valley Bank in Mill Creek on Dec. 30, 2008, and Hughes of committing the robbery.

Hughes was initially charged with seven felonies including conspiracy, first-degree robbery, bank robbery with a dangerous weapon, wanton endangerment involving a firearm, grand larceny, transfer of stolen goods and attempting to escape custody. Pennington was charged with one count each of conspiracy and receiving stolen goods.

According to the indictment, Hughes is accused of pointing a .38 caliber revolver at the face of a bank teller and commanding her to give him the money in the drawer during the robbery. He is accused of taking $21,060.

Pennington is charged with receiving more than $1,000, "in which he knew to be stolen in a bank robbery," the indictment states.

A third man, Matthew Pennington, 22, of 1303 Essex St., Bluefield, pleaded guilty in May to an information charging him with one count of grand larceny, a felony. Matthew Pennington was accused of driving the getaway car during the robbery.

Wilfong sentenced Matthew Pennington to two to 10 years in the state penitentiary. She also included a recommendation to the parole board that Pennington serve a minimum of five years to account for each victim inside the bank during the time of the robbery.


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