Jury deliberates future of LA man charged with robbery

After a two-week trial, jurors on Dec. 19 began deliberating the fate of a Los Altos man on trial for a January 2006 robbery in Mountain View.

Attorneys painted contrasting portraits of Los Altos native Sargent Binkley during closing arguments in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Binkley, 34, a West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran, is charged with six felony counts for armed robbery and possession of narcotics. This stems from an alleged holdup of the Walgreens at El Camino Real and Grant Road for medication to which he had become addicted.

Binkley is also charged with a similar robbery that occurred in March 2006 in San Mateo County. That case has yet to go to trial.

According to testimony, Binkley seized painkillers Percocet and Diazepam from both pharmacies. Both drugs are addictive and are typically prescribed for a maximum of two weeks. Binkley took the painkillers for approximately two years after a hip injury he sustained while on active duty in Honduras several years ago.

Some, including fellow West Point graduate and Los Altos resident Duncan MacVicar, said Binkley's addiction is not Binkley's fault.

"Was he addicted to narcotics? Yes. Was it his choice? Absolutely not," MacVicar said.

Defense attorney Charles Smith argued that Binkley was not guilty of using a gun, citing inconclusive forensic analysis done on surveillance camera photos, which he claims do not indicate Binkley showed a gun.

The law defines "use" as distinct from simply being armed – it entails the brandishing, firing or hitting with the firearm. In this case, according to Smith, the brandishing is in question.

Santa Clara County Assistant District Attorney Deborah Medved, however, claimed that Walgreens employees Dennis Pinheiro and Bernadette Cabarloc were in fact coerced by the "use" of a gun.

"Why else would (Pinheiro) hand over the bag of drugs? He was afraid (of being shot)," Medved said.

After summations from both sides, the jury began deliberating at approximately 3 p.m. Dec. 19 but had yet to return a verdict by the Town Crier's Dec. 22 press deadline.

Binkley pleaded guilty to armed robbery, which carries a mandatory sentence of probation plus five years and eight months in prison. However, if found guilty of "using" the gun, he could face a mandatory minimum sentence of an additional 12 years in prison.

Another factor is Binkley's mental stability. Several doctors testified that they had diagnosed Binkley as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If declared "insane" by the court, Binkley could be turned over to medical personnel and hospitalized for treatment of PTSD in lieu of prison.

Despite the imminent outcome of Binkley's specific case, some of those in attendance feel strongly about the overarching issues.

"We need to treat our vets more justly," MacVicar said. "(Binkley) is a good guy, a family man, athlete, scholar – this was all beyond his control. … This should not have been taken to trial."

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