U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
District of Minnesota
District of Minnesota
For Immediate Release
March 7, 2012
B. Todd Jones, United States Attorney
Contact: Jeanne Cooney, Director of Community Relations
Felon Sentenced to 25 Years in Federal Prison for Armed Robbery of a White Bear Lake Bar
MINNEAPOLIS – Earlier today in federal court in the District of Minnesota, a habitual offender was sentenced in connection with the November 27, 2010, armed robbery of a White Bear Lake bar. United States District Court Judge Joan N. Ericksen sentenced Tyice Alexander Phillips, age 35, of St. Paul, to 300 months in federal prison on one count of discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Phillips was charged on March 21, 2011, and pleaded guilty on May 24, 2011. Because of Phillips’ extensive and violent criminal record, he was subject to the federal armed career criminal statute in this case. That statute mandates a minimum prison sentence of 15 years.
Following today’s sentencing, U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said,
In an effort to make our streets and businesses safer for everyone, we work closely with state and local investigators as well as county attorneys to ensure that violent career criminals, such as Phillips, are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That was achieved today, when Judge Ericksen ordered him to spend the next 25 years in federal prison. Jones went on to note that since the federal justice system does not use parole, Phillips will spend virtually his entire sentence behind bars. In his plea agreement, Phillips admitted that on November 27, 2010, he and two other men traveled to the White Bear Bar in White Bear Lake to rob it. Donning masks, they entered the bar, brandishing weapons. During the robbery, one of the guns fired, hitting and injuring a patron.
Because Phillips is a felon, he is prohibited from possessing firearms. He was previously convicted in 1996 of aggravated robbery; in 2000 of first-degree burglary; and in 2006 of felony kidnapping, first-degree aggravated robbery, and first-degree burglary. All those offenses occurred in Ramsey County. The state complaints filed in the 2000 and 2006 cases, alleged that the offenses were committed during home invasions.
After the sentencing hearing today, Bernard J. Zapor, Special Agent in Charge of the St. Paul Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, added to the U.S. Attorney’s remarks by saying,
The ongoing partnership of community and law enforcement will continue to remove the brutality of those taking shortcuts in life.
Phillips was one of three defendants in this case. On November 18, 2011, co-defendant Percy Davis Peters, unknown age and address, was sentenced to 262 months in federal prison for his role in the crime. Earlier, he pled guilty to one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. He was indicted on February 8, 2011.
In his plea agreement, Peters admitted that prior to the robbery, he was provided a gun, and that gun was brandished during the robbery. He also admitted that during the course of the robbery, that gun discharged.
On November 7, 2011, co-defendant Maurice Anthony Lewis, age 42, of St. Paul, was sentenced to 140 months in federal prison for his role in the crime. On June 2, 2011, he specifically pled guilty to one count of interference of commerce by robbery, pursuant to the Hobbs Act, and one count of aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
In his plea agreement, Lewis admitted that he assisted his two armed accomplices in taking money from people in the bar. During the robbery, after his mask was pulled off by a bar patron, Lewis fled to a vehicle that was waiting in the parking lot.
A law enforcement affidavit filed in the case states that the three men, all dressed in dark clothing with ski masks or stocking caps pulled down over their faces, entered the White Bear Bar in White Bear Lake just before closing. More than 50 patrons were inside at the time. Surveillance video shows the men pushing customers and ordering them to the ground.
After taking money from patrons and the office safe, two of the robbers fled to their getaway car across the street, where the third robber was waiting. One of the bar patrons briefly gave chase on foot. The vehicle was a black, late-model BMW sedan.
A White Bear Lake police officer shortly thereafter encountered a vehicle that matched the description of the get-away car. When the officer turned on his emergency lights, however, the vehicle tried to get away by turning into the entrance of an apartment complex. It then drove into a snow bank, prompting all three occupants of the car to jump out and run in different directions. A .40- caliber, semi-automatic pistol and a six-shot Ruger revolver were found along the paths they took. A multi-colored stocking cap also was recovered near the front bumper of the abandoned vehicle.
The Hobbs Act, passed by Congress in 1946, allows federal prosecutors to prosecute criminals who commit robbery in places of business involved in interstate commerce. For violent defendants with aggravated criminal histories, federal prosecution of these cases can be beneficial since the penalties are often tougher than under state law.
This case is the result of an investigation by the White Bear Lake Police Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen B. Schommer and Andrew R. Winter.