RALEIGH — Two people pleaded guilty Wednesday to the armed robbery of the PNC Bank in Lumberton in January, and two others denied involvement and asked for new lawyers.
Rashad Donavan Young, 26, of 421 W. Lewis St. in Whiteville, and Jeramie Ross Vaughn, 29, of Bitmore Road, entered guilty pleas on one count of bank robbery and one count of discharging a firearm in furtherance of a bank robbery.
The pleas were part of a plea deal, the details of which were not revealed. Both will be sentenced later.
Demetris “Boo Boo” Sean Robinson, 26, of Golf Course Road in Whiteville, and Daquan Pridgen, 26, of Memory Twin Circle in Whiteville, pleaded not guilty to the Jan. 23 robbery of the Lumberton bank.
The small fifth-floor courtroom was standing room only with about 30 people, in including high ranking members of the Robeson County law enforcement community and the Columbus County sheriff.
Robeson County District Attorney’s Office Investigator Erich Hackney said it was important to attend the arraignment.
“Many people were put in danger,” Hackney said. “We needed to be here in court today.”
Robinson was the first defendant to appear before United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle. He was escorted into the courtroom wearing prison-issued garments and ankle shackles.
Boyle examined the documents that were presented for review as Robinson stood beside his attorney, Rick Croutharmel.
“Where was the bank?” he asked Assistant United States Attorney Peggah B. Wilson.
“At PNC,” she said.
Boyle asked Robinson his name and age, then looked back down at the documents, and began listing the more than 20 criminal counts he was facing and the possible length of sentencing.
“Do you know all of that?” Boyle said.
Robinson said he understood the charges and asked permission to speak. He then told the court he was not satisfied with his attorney.
“He is trying to get me to sign this plea deal,” Robinson said. “If I don’t take it I will be buried in jail.”
Robinson said he wanted to talk to his pastor, but was advised against it.
“I didn’t say that,” Croutharmel said. “It’s his (Robinson) decision not his pastor’s.”
Croutharmel adamantly denied what Robinson uttered.
“I am not sure why he is requesting another attorney,” he said. “It would not be because of lack of effort. I’ve done my best.”
After the arraignment Croutharmel told The Robesonian he worked out two plea deals that would give Robinson a chance to live life outside prison.
It was revealed that Robinson soon will be indicted on charges stemming from a 2017 bank robbery in South Carolina.
Croutharmel said he was looking out for the best interest of his client.
“I am no longer on the case,” he said. “I got fired. I don’t know what his issue was with my representation. I can only speculate.”
Boyle had choice words for Robinson, challenging the legitimacy of his dissatisfaction with counsel.
“Can I have more time, your honor?” Robinson said.
“Yes. I will give you 30 days,” Boyle said. “We will revisit this.”
The next defendant was Pridgen, dressed in an orange jump suit and wearing tinted yellow framed glasses. He walked toward his attorneys, Kelly Margolis Dagger and Paul Sun, in ankle shackles.
Pridgen entered a plea of not guilty and sat down after Judge Boyle went over the charges and penalties for each count.
Boyle pointed out Pridgen had pleaded guilty to a prior charge, for which he did not serve time.
“How did that happen?” he asked Wilson. “Was that in Columbus County Superior Court? So he was on state probation when he committed these crimes?”
“Yes, your honor,” Wilson said.
Pridgen’s attorney asked the court for substitute counsel.
“Can I address the court?” he said. “Our communication has broken down.”
Pridgen expressed displeasure with his attorney, saying he was “trying to get me to sign a plea deal.”
“How can I get a fair trial?” he asked. “I wasn’t given my indictment papers. Someone went to look at the document, and it said I confessed.”
Pridgen said he never confessed and his constitutional rights were being violated.
Wilson recounted the events that unfolded on Jan. 23.
Young, Vaughn and two co-conspirators entered the PNC Bank, held bank employees and a customer at gunpoint. More than $40,000 was stolen.
The robbery took about 10 minutes.
“A very long bank robbery,” Boyle said.
Lumberton police saw a gray Saturn matching the descriptions given by witnesses and began a pursuit.
Vaughn is accused of being the getaway driver. Young is believed to have been in the Saturn’s back seat.
Both were accused of firing weapons at pursuing law enforcement vehicles. Six Lumberton police cruisers and one sheriff’s vehicle were hit by bullets.
Found at and near the abandoned car was a 12 gauge shotgun, a Glock 9 pistol, a .38 caliber handgun, some ammunition and a cell phone, Wilson said.
Young jumped out of the vehicle and fled on foot when the getaway car came to a stop at a convenience store in Lumberton.
Vaughn and three others fled into woods in Columbus County, leaving the Saturn behind.
Thirty hours later Vaughn was apprehended wet, cold and wearing the same clothing seen on bank surveillance footage.
Young was arrested on Jan. 25 during a traffic stop.
Both confessed to taking part in the bank heist.
Vaughn faces a sentence of not less than 20 years and up to life in prison, a fine up to $500,000 and up to five years of supervised release.
Young faces a sentence of not less than 10 years and up to life, a fine up to $500,000 and up to five years of supervised release.
The robbery was investigated by the FBI, the Lumberton Police Department, the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office and the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office.
United States Attorney Roberts J. Higdon Jr. told The Robesonian he is pleased to see this matter partially resolved.
“These pleas are strong steps toward that goal. These defendants risked the safety of bank employees, bank customers and numerous sworn law enforcement officers,” he said. “This case demanded a swift response and the FBI, the Lumberton police, the Robeson County sheriff and the Columbus County sheriff met that challenge.
“We remain committed to the case against the co-defendants, Pridgen and Robinson, and we look forward to putting the facts of this brazen robbery and police shooting before a trial jury very soon.”
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected] or Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.