Judge moves Carbondale robbery case forward
A district court judge found in a preliminary hearing Wednesday that there is probable cause to move forward on all counts in the Carbondale armed robbery case against Benjamin Weeks.
However, Weeks is also facing a murder charge in Las Vegas, stemming from a woman found dead in her apartment with gunshot wounds, and extradition issues are still being worked out. It’s unclear if Weeks will be taken back to Nevada before the robbery case has concluded.
Weeks and his cousin, both 19 years old, face charges in the armed robbery of a Carbondale convenience store and a subsequent two-day manhunt in February.
Nicholas Ameral, the co-defendant in this case, pleaded guilty last week to felony aggravated armed robbery with a confederate. Weeks has not submitted a plea in his case.
Ameral has been living in the Roaring Fork Valley with his family for several years, but Weeks is from California and had been in the area visiting Ameral for only about two weeks when the robbery occurred, according to investigators.
Weeks faces four counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of menacing with a deadly weapon, all felonies, and a sentence enhancer related to use of a deadly weapon during the commission of a robbery.
Prosecutors called three investigators to testify in the preliminary hearing Wednesday. Some new information came to light in their testimony, including that Ameral admitted to the robbery during interviews with law enforcement, and that he eventually said that his cousin was his partner in the robbery.
Ameral also said that his cousin was the one holding the gun in the robbery. One of the clerks told police that the robber with the gun had pointed it at her during the crime.
Authorities later executed a search warrant for Ameral’s mother’s home, where the two young men were staying, and found in a crawl space a 9 mm Glock handgun matching the description of the gun used in the robbery. Ameral eventually told law enforcement that this was in fact the same gun used in the robbery, the investigators testified Wednesday.
Since the two cousins were arrested, Weeks has consistently denied having been involved with the robbery.
Defense attorney Chip McCrory took issue with the amount of hearsay evidence that the prosecution had presented to make its case in the preliminary hearing. But Deputy District Attorney Zac Parsons noted that hearsay evidence is admissible in preliminary hearings. Judge James Boyd eventually agreed, noting that the prosecution had introduced some non-hearsay evidence in the form of video surveillance and some eyewitness accounts from investigators who were on scene and who conducted interviews.
The defense also started the clock ticking on the extradition issue, setting a 35-day deadline for the governor of Nevada to issue an extradition warrant for Weeks.
The 19-year-old will next appear in district court July 25, when he’s expected to enter a plea and when a trial date may also be set.
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