Conflict of interest sparks search for outside judge in Virginia Beach bank robbery case

Posted at 1:26 PM, Apr 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-03 22:24:46-04

Virginia Beach, Va. - A crucial hearing for a pair of accused bank robbers also charged with shooting a state trooper ground to an unexpected halt Friday morning in Virginia Beach when all the lower-court judges declined to hear the case.

The judges’ decisions to recuse themselves from the preliminary hearing for Rory Diggs and John Lewis surprised everyone involved in the case. The prosecutor had assembled a dozen witnesses for today’s hearing, and both men’s defense attorneys were ready to go. The hearing was postponed until April 30.

The judges did not give a reason publicly, but prosecutor Wendy Alexander said the judges knew the State Police sergeant who was shot after the robbery, and decided it was best to ask an out-of-town judge to hear the case.

Diggs and Lewis were charged in the December robbery of a Wells Fargo bank on General Booth Boulevard. Police records show the robbers escaped with $34,000. The robbers’ fleeing truck caught the attention of a State Police sergeant who was not involved in the bank-robbery investigation. The trooper pursued the truck into a residential court, trapping the robbers there. Neighbors said the robbers opened fire on the trooper. A bullet grazed his head. The robbers got away.

Hours later police arrested Diggs in a nearby back yard. Lewis was arrested the next day. Lewis has no criminal record. Diggs has a misdemeanor on his record from more than 20 years ago.

The hearing Friday would have determined whether prosecutors have enough evidence to move the case to the grand jury.

Shortly after the crime, FBI officials said the pair of robbers might have been responsible for a dozen other bank heists, but so far neither man is facing charges for any other robberies.


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