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Alleged bank robber charged in federal court

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | JULY 24, 2009 7:15 AM

The state of Iowa has dismissed robbery charges against Charles Curry, 19, but that doesn’t mean the North Liberty man is off the hook. Federal officials issued three warrants against Curry on Thursday.

And that can carry a heavier penalty than state charges, experts said. While first-degree robbery is punishable by up to 25 years in prison in Iowa, at the federal level, armed bank robbery carries the same prison sentence with an additional $250,000-maximum fine.

Police allege that Curry walked into American Bank & Trust, 551 Westbury Drive, on Monday, just before another man entered the bank with a handgun and demanded money.

Later that day, Curry allegedly used money taken during the robbery to post a personal bond at the Johnson County Jail and purchased several items from stores. Local police arrested him that evening and took him to the Johnson County Jail.

He was held on a $50,000 cash-only bond until Thursday, when federal agents took Curry into their custody.

Federal charges are more likely to have automatic enhancements — provisions that increase prison time if certain circumstances apply. Generally, they also require offenders to serve a greater percentage of their sentences before being eligible for parole, said Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay.

That’s why local officials often drop charges so that cases may be federally prosecuted.

“It’s a matter of negotiation between the local and state prosecutor and the federal attorney’s office,” said UI law Professor David Baldus.

Kelsay said it is typical for federal officials to file their own charges in bank robberies because they involve money insured by the federal government.

It is also possible to charge an individual for the same crime at both the state and federal levels, Baldus said. Double jeopardy — the clause prohibiting a person to be charged for the same crime twice — only applies within the same system.

But prosecutors rarely do so.

“It’s a matter of resources,” Kelsay said. “You could probably do both, but they will serve time in one place or the other.”

Those charged with a federal crimes can expect a new set of accommodations and a different venue for trial. There is no federal courthouse in Johnson County, so federal agents transferred Curry into their custody.


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