Defendants take stand in robbery trial

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 17, 2000

VIDALIA, La. – The three men accused of robbing Ezy Pay Furniture in Ferriday April 4 said in court Wednesday that they used drugs and alcohol heavily in the days before they were arrested and gave statements to officers.

Twins Tyrone Banks and Tony Banks, 22, of Memphis, Tenn., each face six counts of armed robbery in connection with the April 3 Vidalia Pizza Hut robbery and the April 4 Ezy Pay robbery. Antonio Hawkins, 21, of Vidalia, faces four counts of armed robbery in connection with the Pizza Hut robbery.

The twins admitted to smoking marijuana and inhaling cocaine on April 3 and April 4, even passing around a marijuana joint as police were chasing their vehicle along U.S. 84 the afternoon of April 4. Hawkins said he mostly drank alcohol during those two days but also inhaled cocaine. &uot;I threw a beer out before the police got to us&uot; during the chase, he added.

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Such testimony is important to the case because Hawkins and the Bankses said they were still under the influence when they gave statements to Sheriff’s Office investigators.

Hawkins gave a statement to Investigator Dennis Cowan on the evening of April 4, after the trio were arrested. Hawkins said he was told to stay in the vehicle while the twins and Stanton &uot;Donnie&uot; Easley – who pleaded guilty before the trial started Monday – went into Ezy Pay.

Hawkins said he did not know anything about what took place during that incident and did not know anything about the Pizza Hut robbery. Hawkins said Wednesday he was still drunk when he gave his statement to investigators. Cowan said Hawkins did not appear drunk.

Tyrone and Tony Banks and Easley gave statements April 5 but said Wednesday that they were still high on drugs at the time those statements were given.

Attorneys in the case, Assistant District Attorney Ronnie McMillan and Public Defender Derrick Carson, said in court that a prosecution report in the case stated that the men tested positive for drugs after their arrest – or in Hawkins’ case, alcohol.

But Cowan said he knew of no alcohol test being given to Hawkins. And Deputy Freddie Mount, who also testified Wednesday, said no drug tests were ordered and no documentation of such tests exists.

Easley himself testified for the defense late Wednesday afternoon. According to those present in the courtroom at the end of the day, Easley said he was responsible for the robberies.

Stanton &uot;Donnie&uot; Easley, 41, of Nashville, Tenn., pleaded guilty Monday and received, including concurrent sentences, 85 years in prison on two counts of armed robbery and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.