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Trial begins in ATM break-in case

July 24, 2012
By GARRETT NEESE - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - The trial of a Dollar Bay man accused of attempting to break into an ATM in South Range began in Houghton County Circuit Court Monday.

Gordon Lewis, 20, is accused of attempted safe-cracking at Miner's State Bank Oct. 3, 2011. The crime is a five-year felony. He also has a trial pending on felony charges of larceny in a building.

Monday included testimony from Paden Rothenberger, who was sentenced to a year in jail in March for his role in the attempted break-in. Testifying against Lewis was part of Rothenberger's plea bargain.

Article Photos

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Gordon Lewis, in white shirt, listens to Paden Rothenberger’s testimony with his attorney, David Gemignani during the first day of Lewis’ trial Monday.

He said Lewis had orchestrated the break-in to get money for a better lawyer in another felony case.

The break-in was preceded by a dry run to see if police would respond when they unplugged the machine.

The two took turns drilling and acting as a lookout. They were able to penetrate the outer shell of the ATM, but couldn't get into the inner portion with the money.

"We just couldn't get through," Rothenberger said.

Rothenberger was arrested later in October after attempting to rob Superior National Bank in Chassell. He confessed to the break-in with Lewis, as well as other crimes with which Lewis was not involved.

"Did you have any promises of leniency ... when you admitted this?" Houghton County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Makinen asked him.

"No," he said. "I just wanted a clear conscience."

Lewis' attorney, David Gemignani, pointed to inconsistencies about time in Rothenberger's earlier testimony, which he said may have been caused by Rothenberger's drug use at the time. He also suggested Rothenberger had a grudge against Lewis.

"Do you recall making the statement that Gordon's talking trash about you, you're going to make sure Gordon's going to get in as much trouble as you can get him in? ... Did you ever make the statement that if he stops talking trash about you, you're going to tell the truth?" he asked Rothenberger.

"No," Rothenberger said to both.

Gemignani also questioned the supposed financial need that would make Lewis break into an ATM. At the time, he said, Lewis had recently received money for his National Guard service.

On the night of the attempt, Lewis was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, light blue jeans with a tear in the left leg and grey shoes, Rothenberger said. That appears to match clothes seen on bank security footage, said Michigan State Police Trooper Dieter Kochan, who played the footage for jurors.

Jeans, shoes and a hooded sweatshirt matching the description were also found at Lewis' house. Each item was presented in court Monday.

Kochan said the footage shows the sweatshirt's hood had a light grey interior and a red spot consistent with the Dickies logo on the sweatshirt found at Lewis' house.

Rothenberger also told police they would find a drill and cutting torch in Lewis' vehicle. Police could not find the tools there, or at his house, which Rothenberger later suggested. But they did find a receipt in the car for a drill purchased at Menard's in Marquette earlier the day of the attempt.

Other items, such as sunglasses and black gloves seen in the video, were not found. And with the mask on, it was not possible to positively identify Lewis from the video, Kochan said.

An attempt to play phone conversations Lewis had in the jail was postponed after jurors said the volume was too low. The recordings were scheduled to be played over an external speaker when the trial resumed today at 9 a.m.

The prosecution rested at about 9:45 today.



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