Jurors may get bank robbery case Thursday

Jurors may begin deliberations as early as Thursday in the case against a 27-year-old snowboarder accused of holding up the Minden branch of Bank of America at gunpoint.

District Judge Michael Gibbons told the jury to be prepared after prosecutor Michael McCormick said Wednesday he had three witnesses left from his original list of 26.

The trial began Tuesday against Steven Simmons of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., charged with robbery with the use of a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm with the serial number changed, altered or obliterated.

He was accused of taking $4,807 at gunpoint from the Minden bank branch near the close of business on Nov. 22, 2005.

There were no injuries in the incident and Simmons was apprehended about 30 minutes later hiding in a doghouse at a residence in the upscale Minden subdivision of Mackland, less than a mile from the bank.

The money was recovered in a blue backpack along with a handgun, clothing, goggles and other items associated with the robbery found in a field between the bank and neighborhood where Simmons was discovered.

Shawn Johnson, formerly of Mammoth Lakes, testified Wednesday that he rode to South Lake Tahoe on Nov. 21 with Simmons so the suspect could see his girlfriend.

Johnson said they spent the night at the woman's apartment and the next day " the day of the robbery " Simmons said he was going somewhere and Johnson couldn't accompany him.

"I was uncomfortable parting ways like that," Johnson said. "He gave me his car keys and said if I didn't see him by 5 p.m., I should apologize to his girlfriend. He said something about rent for his roommate. I don't recall the exact words."

The former girlfriend, Alba Gonzalez, testified Wednesday that Simmons always treated her well.

"You never suspected that Steve was a bank robber, did you?" asked lawyer Tod Young, Simmons' attorney.

She said they spent the evening of Nov. 21 playing pool.

"Nothing came up about robbing a bank," she said.

Johnson and Simmons' former roommate Andrew Olivera admitted they were less than forthcoming when questioned by the FBI after the robbery.

"I didn't tell the whole truth," Olivera said. "I didn't feel like dealing with it. It sounded like a headache to me. I had to find a new roommate and pay all the bills."

Olivera testified he never saw Simmons carry a backpack or wear a black balaclava, a knitted cap that covers the head neck and shoulder.

Jurors watched a video taken by surveillance cameras from the bank branch taken during the robbery. It showed a suspect dressed in dark clothing, carrying a white plastic bag which employees testified they filled with money and pointing a gun as he made his way out of the bank after the holdup.

None of the bank employees have been able to identify the robber because his face was obscured by the knitted cap.

Douglas County sheriff's deputies testified Wednesday about locating a blue backpack in a field behind the bank which contained the missing money, a 9 mm Glock handgun, clothing and shoes identical to what the robber appeared to be wearing in the video.

When Simmons was found in the doghouse, he was wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans.

Investigators said the suspect told them he had hitchhiked to Carson Valley from Mammoth Lakes on Nov. 22.

He reportedly told investigators he ran because he had purchased $40 worth of marijuana from someone in a casino parking lot and was afraid he would get in trouble.

Investigator Dennis Slater testified that Simmons was very cooperative in giving hair and saliva DNA samples and fingerprints after his arrest.

He admitted when questioned by Young that Simmons' fingerprints didn't turn up on any items associated with the investigation.

Simmons has been in Douglas County Jail on $250,000 bail since his arrest. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted on all counts. He also could face federal charges.

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