SANTA ANA – Trial began Tuesday in a case where the prosecutor said the suspect’s get-away car was stolen and took a screwdriver to start.
The defendant’s lawyer doesn’t deny his client robbed the bank, but said there isn’t evidence showing he used a real gun.
Chandler Graham, a 54-year-old convicted felon accused of robbing a bank in Lake Forest and leading police on a car chase, faces multiple felony charges including robbery, assault with a firearm, evading police and possession of a firearm by a felon.
At 10:45 a.m. on Sept. 21, 2015, Graham allegedly walked into the Eagle Community Credit Union wearing black clothes, a cowboy hat and a fake beard.
Authorities said he pulled out a gun, threatened a teller for cash and fled in a sedan.
In the Orange County Superior Court trial, Deputy District Attorney Paul Chrisopoulos said a bank employee was able to take a photo of the license plate.
A sheriff’s deputy spotted the car with a driver matching the suspect’s description, heading northbound on the I-5 freeway. Authorities said Graham left the freeway in Tustin and led deputies on a short pursuit before getting arrested.
Chrisopoulos said Graham was using a stolen car that had to be started with a screwdriver. He said the gun used in the robbery was later recovered in bushes. Jurors will see a 30-second surveillance video of the robbery and hear testimony from bank employees, he said.
Graham’s defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Isabel Apkarian, didn’t deny that he robbed the bank but said there is no proof that the gun he used was real.
Apkarian said the alleged weapon was recovered in bushes a week after the crime and had no fingerprints or any other evidence linking it to the robbery.
“This isn’t a case of whodunit, it’s a case of what did he do and why,” she said.
Chrisopoulos argued that the gun likely would not have fingerprints, because Graham had on surgical gloves.
Court records show that Graham was on parole at the time for a 1995 murder conviction; he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was arrested a year earlier after leading police on a high-speed car chase in La Habra that ended in a crash that killed a man.
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