State Supreme Court rules giving note to bank teller can bring a robbery conviction

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Police on the scene of a Seattle Bank Robbery.

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Is it bank robbery if someone gives a note to a teller demanding money, but doesn’t explicitly threaten to use force?

Washington’s Supreme Court says yes. In a decision Thursday, the justices unanimously held that such a note implies a threat of violence, and thus it’s robbery rather than theft, which is the stealing of property without such a threat.

The ruling came in the case of Charles Verdel Farnsworth, who was convicted in Pierce County Superior Court for his role in a 2009 bank robbery. Farnsworth’s partner presented a note to a teller that read in part, “no tracking devices, put the money in the bag.”

The justices divided closely on another issue in the case, saying 5-4 that his co-defendant’s plea agreement should have been introduced at his trial. But the court declined to toss his conviction on that ground.