Hearing postponed in armed robbery case

Damon Banks

LANCASTER – A 27-year-old man, charged with robbing three Lancaster restaurants within a two-hour span, appeared in an Antelope Valley courtroom Tuesday for a scheduled preliminary hearing.

The hearing for Damon Banks was postponed until July 26, at the request of both the prosecution and the defense.

Both sides needed a continuance to address several items, including the issue of identification, said Superior Court Judge Christopher Estes.

Banks and 27-year-old Lee Vance McQuilkin are accused of robbing Little Caesars, Wienerschnitzel and Subway, between 7 and 9 p.m., on Sunday, June 10. In each case, two men walked into the restaurant, held the employees at gunpoint, demanded money from the register and then escaped on foot, sheriff’s officials said.

On June 22, Banks was charged with five counts of robbery, and a $300,000 felony warrant for his arrest was issued on June 25. Banks was classified as “armed and dangerous” and placed on a Most Wanted list, which was circulated to the local media on June 25.

Banks’ family members have long insisted that Banks was nowhere near Lancaster when the crimes occurred and believe the case is one of mistaken identity. Read more here.

On July 3, Banks turned himself in to the Lancaster Station hoping to clear up what he believed to be a misunderstanding, according to his fiancée Alera Sugges. Banks was jailed that day and has remained in custody since.

“This happens to be a victim of a really, really bad set of circumstances,” said private defense attorney, Stephen A. King, who became Banks’ attorney on record as of Tuesday.

King said the case was still in the early stages, but much of the evidence was not adding up against Banks.

“Out of three locations, there was one location where they were not able to make an identification [of Banks],” King said. “They said that my client looked similar to the guy who had committed the robbery.”

King said all three robberies were captured on video surveillance.

“We don’t know the quality of those videos and we don’t have those videos at this point,” King said. “Even the district attorney doesn’t have them, the investigating officer has them.”

King said the prosecutor, Ted Swanson, had graciously agreed to take a closer look at the case before the rescheduled preliminary hearing.

“The district attorney is willing to step back from his pursuit and listen to everything in its totality and make a determination as to whether it’s going to be his recommendation to continue with the case or whether or not he feels comfortable making the recommendation that the case be dropped against my client,” King said.

King said he would be reviewing information from “GPS tracking devices and cell phone tower technology” along with several witnesses who placed Banks well outside of Lancaster during the time of the robberies. He hoped this information would be enough to convince the district attorney not to pursue the case any further.

In the meantime, Banks remains jailed on $300,000 bail. His bail cannot be reduced until the rescheduled preliminary hearing because there has been no change in the case, King said.

“He’s a working guy, he’s a father of three, he has a family that loves him and cares about him, and he doesn’t understand why this is happening to him at this particular stage of his life,” King said. “But I pleaded with him to give me a little more time to see if we can get the district attorney on our side.”

More than a dozen of Banks’ family members were in court Tuesday to offer support.

“Unfortunately an innocent person is still sitting behind bars for nothing…” said Banks’ mother, Cecilia Duckworth. “His reputation has been marred.”

Duckworth said her son has never been in jail before and is having problems coping with the isolation from his family and from his work.

“Since he’s been in there, he’s had chest pain,” said Duckworth. “He’s not tolerating it that well [because] he’s not someone who has ever been locked up like this.”

Banks’ preliminary hearing is now set for July 26.

  8 comments for “Hearing postponed in armed robbery case

  1. Ellis H.
    July 19, 2012 at 7:49 am

    If he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it…..time to let him go.

  2. Letlow
    July 18, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    I am comforted to see that the DA seems to be level headed enough to realize that a mistake may have been made. Too bad this was not realized before they issued a warrant for Damon Banks and threw him in jail. If Damon walks away from this, who pays for the lawyer, the time missed from work, etc.?

    This is sloppy work by the sheriffs dept. and someone should pay!!

  3. b lewis
    July 18, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    the av press needs to go out of business you guys are the best!!! i love reading things in your paper the press hasn’t got a clue about current things

    • William
      July 18, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      I’m all for the AV Press going out of business. I didn’t renew my subscription last August right before I discovered the AV Times.

      The Press can take all their awards and shove them as I suspect they are similar to all the kids in elementary school getting gold stars just for showing up.

      • Jamie
        July 19, 2012 at 7:06 am

        GIVE ME THE LEDGER GAZETTE! That was a great paper…..

        • July 19, 2012 at 9:24 am

          From a local Antelope Valley standpoint covering local news, it was. The L-G was not nearly as sensationalistic with *breaking* news as the Valley Press was in those days (1960s and 1970s). Since it was the Lancaster paper, and Lancaster having the larger population and business base, it was more connected to Lancaster than the Palmdale Antelope Valley Press was. Of course, later on, the two papers became one. The Ledger Gazette printed its last edition in June, 1983 according to the Los Angeles County Library in Lancaster’s newspaper holdings database. The Valley Press notes in its current (paper) edition’s masthead these three words in small type: “Including Ledger-Gazette.”

          The Ledger Gazette was a daily beginning in the mid 1960’s – 1964 to be exact – all the way to its merger with the Valley Press in 1983. That was remarkable in its day because the Antelope Valley’s modern day population influx didn’t begin until the Fall of 1983, about the time the Valley Press began adding publication days to its once twice a week – Sunday and Thursday – schedule. The old Ledger Gazette also was known for its Green Sheet, which covered sports, and horse racing and sporting odds.

          Besides the historical former locations of the old Ledger Gazette in Lancaster at 44759 Sierra Highway and later at 656 West Lancaster Blvd. (modern day street names and and addresses for these two), the Ledger Gazette was last located at 44939 10th Street West, where the Antelope Valley Press now operates its Lancaster branch business office.

          Yes, the old Ledger Gazette would come up with some doozies for its feature stories designed to sell the paper. Bigfoot was a recurring topic in its pages in the early to mid 1970s, the heyday of the Bigfoot mania craze at the time. Do a search about it on the Internet and you’ll come up with some fascinating stories!

          May the Ledger Gazette, a lively and engaging newspaper for its long lived life, Rest In Peace.

          • Adam Chant
            July 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm

            Let’s not ignore the fact that the AVP did just run a chem-trails story. Working in the aviation industry and specifically with propulsion systems for the last 5 years I about laughed myself to urination over the fact that it was not only printed, but cover story..
            AVP is losing grip with reality and a waste of paper.. Though I do currently advertise and am subscribed to it.. So no one can say.. what do you know you don’t even use it.. Well I do and it provides a valuable service at a level that is arguably the worst possible for a business to stay a float.

  4. carol shoemaker
    July 18, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Poor kid. Even the law makes mistakes. Its good to know the district attorney is willing to do the right thing.

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