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Woods v. United States

November 12, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve United States District Court Judge


AMY J. ST. EVE, District Court Judge

Before the Court is pro se Petitioner Donald M. Woods' motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the following reasons, the Court denies Woods' Section 2255 motion.


On October 3, 2006, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Woods and his co-defendant Christian Noel with conspiracy to commit bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Count 1) and with bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) (Count 2). On November 7, 2006, Noel pleaded guilty to the bank robbery charge in Count 2 of the indictment. On November 30, 2007, after Noel testified at Woods' jury trial, the Court granted the government's motion for a downward departure based on Noel's substantial assistance and sentenced Noel to 38 months' imprisonment.

On September 4, 2007, Woods' jury trial commenced. Trial testimony established that in August 2005, Aimee Sefcik of Joliet, Illinois owned a blue Chevrolet Malibu with the license plate "AIMSEF6." Around September 2005, Sefcik met Woods, who became one of Sefcik's suppliers of crack cocaine. By the end of 2005, Sefcik was in the habit of lending her blue Malibu to Woods in exchange for crack cocaine.

In July 2006, Woods asked Sefcik -- whom he knew had worked at a bank -- questions about bank security. She told Woods that by walking into a bank a person could see whether the bank had security cameras or guards and that bank customers could make such observations. Woods told Sefcik that he was considering robbing a bank with some other individuals. Meanwhile, in August 2006, and for several years prior, Woods' girlfriend maintained an account at the NuMark Credit Union in Joliet.

Trial testimony also shows that in the afternoon of August 4, 2006, NuMark Credit Union employee William Tierney observed Woods sitting alone in the lobby of the Credit Union. Woods came to Tierney's attention because he was talking on a cell phone, and it was against the Credit Union's policy for customers to use cell phones inside the building because cell phones could be used to take photographs presenting a security risk. Tierney approached Woods and asked him to end his call after which Woods acknowledged Tierney and shrugged off the request. Tierney then went to check on the status of a transaction, intending to return to that area of the lobby to ensure that Woods had ended his call. Tierney testified that he did not recall whether he saw Woods again that day. At trial, Tierney identified Woods as the man he encountered at the Credit Union on August 4, 2006. The Credit Union did not have security guards on duty on August 4, 2006.

At trial, Noel testified that on the evening of August 4, 2006, he walked out of a store in Joliet, after which Woods and an individual named Anthony Jenkins approached him. Noel testified that Woods was driving a blue Malibu with the license plate "AIMSEF6." Noel then walked over to the car and Jenkins asked him whether he had any guns for sale. Noel answered that he did not have any guns for sale, but told Jenkins to call him the next morning and that Noel would "see what he could do."

On August 5, 2006, Woods called Sefcik around 7:13 a.m. and asked her if he could borrow her blue Malibu, after which she told him that he could as long as he returned her car in time for her to drive to work at 10:30 a.m. that day. Shortly after calling Sefcik, Woods walked over to her house, took her car keys, and left in her car. Thereafter, Woods and Jenkins arrived at Noel's house driving the blue Malibu. Jenkins asked Noel whether he had any guns. Noel told him that he did not have any guns, but that he had two BB guns in his bedroom. Jenkins and Woods told him to get the BB guns, one of which resembled a black revolver. The other BB gun resembled a rifle.

Noel then asked Woods and Jenkins if he could ride with them and they told him to get in the car. Although Noel did not know the specifics, he testified that he assumed that they were going to rob someone or something. Noel got into the back seat of the Malibu and Jenkins was in the front passenger seat. As Woods drove away, Noel noticed that on the back seat there was a white t-shirt with a pair of red sunglasses laying on top of it. Under the t-shirt was a "weather mask." Woods told Noel to put the items on, and Noel did so. Noel was already wearing a blue bandana over his head when he put the weather mask over his face and put on the red sunglasses. Jenkins was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and around his neck he was wearing a sleeve that had been cut from a short sleeve t-shirt.

As Woods and Jenkins discussed where to go, Noel testified that Woods said words to the effect of, "the one down there will be a good one because that's where my girl cashes her checks at and there's no security." Woods then drove them to the NuMark Credit Union. While the car was in the Credit Union parking lot, Jenkins turned to Noel and asked him whether he was ready and Noel said yes. Jenkins then slid the cutoff t-shirt sleeve up over his face, and he and Noel got out of the car. They then went into the NuMark Credit Union. Both Jenkins and Noel were masked and carried the BB guns.

Inside the Credit Union, Noel and Jenkins yelled at the tellers to give them money. They then jumped up on the counter at a teller station and reached over the counter to help themselves to cash that was inside the drawers behind the counter. Jenkins demanded that a teller give him a bag for the cash and Noel made the same demand to another teller. The tellers gave Jenkins and Noel empty trash bags and they stuffed cash into the bags. Noel and Jenkins then jumped off the counters, ran outside, and got into the blue Malibu where Woods was waiting. Trial testimony reveals that a Credit Union employee saw Jenkins and Noel leave the Credit Union and get into a Chevrolet Malibu with license plate "AIMSEF" and ending with a number. The employee also saw a man sitting in the driver's seat when Jenkins and Noel entered the car.

After the bank robbery, Woods drove Jenkins and Noel out of the parking lot. While they were on the road, Jenkins split the larger bills between the three of them. When they arrived at Woods' house, they went into the garage and divided the smaller bills. Woods then took the two BB guns from under the front passenger seat of the blue Malibu and hid them in the back seat of a car that was in his garage. After that, Wood wiped the door handles of the blue Malibu with his shirt. He tried to call Sefcik at 10:15, 10:26 ...

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