Prosecutors seek jail term after bank robbery suspect moves to withdraw guilty plea


Michael Charles Garcia may come to regret following his mother’s advice to move to withdraw his guilty plea in a 2012 bank robbery case that called for a sentence of probation.

Federal prosecutors, frustrated with months of meddling from Katrina Garcia, not only oppose allowing the younger Garcia to withdraw the plea, but now they want U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey to sentence him to 27 months in prison for violating the terms of the agreement.

Dorsey set a hearing on Wednesday to determine whether to allow the 22-year-old Garcia to back out of the deal, but both sides asked her to put it off a couple of weeks.

Garcia’s new lawyer, his sixth in two years, filed a motion late last month, seeking to allow him to withdraw the plea, arguing he felt “pressured” and coerced” into accepting the deal by his former attorney Todd Leventhal, and the prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amber Craig.

Paola Armeni also contends her client agreed to the deal on no sleep the night before and “could not mentally process what was going on.”

Last week, Craig filed a lengthy response again arguing the deal for probation was a “generous” offer and Garcia was placed under no duress.

“The government rarely agrees to a probationary sentence in a bank robbery case,” Craig wrote, adding Garcia willingly entered the plea deal in court after another judge questioned him at length about it.

Craig also once more argued that Garcia’s mother pushed her son into reneging on the deal against his best interests.

Katrina Garcia, who has said she is an unemployed paralegal, once was warned by a federal magistrate to stop filing documents behind Leventhal’s back seeking to derail the plea agreement, Craig explained. The mother also wrote threatening emails to Leventhal.

Michael Garcia had confessed to driving the getaway car in the $1,600 robbery of a Citibank branch on Jan. 31, 2012.

But he didn’t plead guilty last July to that crime. Instead, he pleaded guilty to attempting to pull off the robbery of a City National Bank branch prior to the Citibank robbery.

In his agreement with prosecutors, Garcia acknowledged that he went inside the City National Bank, but failed to carry out the robbery

He also admitted that from there, he drove his co-defendant, Matthew Dale Dewberry, to the Citibank robbery

Dewberry, 41, who said in court his real name is Robert Gruscynski, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank robbery and one count of bank robbery. He is waiting to be sentenced.

In a November interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Katrina Garcia insisted that she, not her son, unwittingly drove Dewberry to the robbery of the Citibank branch at 8701 W. Sahara Ave.

But she failed an FBI-administered polygraph, and authorities did not charge her.

“Whether out of a sense of guilt or due to mental instability, she continues to insist that she drove the getaway car, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary,” Craig wrote in her court papers.

Several weeks after the robbery, Garcia turned in Dewberry, a drug-addicted drifter who had been living with Garcia and her son and tried unsuccessfully to collect reward money from the FBI, Craig alleged.

Dewberry admitted committing the Citibank robbery, but according to prosecutors he also provided FBI agents with additional evidence of Michael Garcia’s involvement.

Dewberry also told agents that Katrina Garcia put him up to robbing the bank because he had no money and she wanted him to start paying rent.

Garcia has denied persuading Dewberry to rob the bank.

Craig argued that the younger Garcia has no valid reason to withdraw his plea other than his mother wants him to do it.

“The defendant chose to plead guilty because he is in fact guilty,” Craig wrote. “Katrina Garcia has already wasted a considerable amount of this court’s time and resources and the government respectfully urges this court not to continue to allow her to do so.”

Contact reporter Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Follow him on Twitter @JGermanRJ.

 

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