Ben Affleck Movie Helped Secure Robbery Convictions

Robbers emulated 'The Town,' prosecutors say
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2017 1:00 PM CST
Ben Affleck Movie Helped Secure Robbery Convictions
In this film publicity image released by Warner Bros., from left, Slaine, Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner and Owen Burke are shown in a scene from, "The Town."   (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Watching a Ben Affleck movie in court? Seems weird, but prosecutors in a robbery trial showed jurors clips from Ben Affleck's 2010 film The Town, and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decided this week not to reverse the armed bank robbery convictions of the defendants involved. Akeem Monsalvatge, Edward Byam, and Derrick Dunkley committed a robbery in 2010 and made off with $44,000; Courthouse News describes that robbery as "a bumbling mess." Their 2012 robbery was much more sophisticated, and they walked away with $200,000. As the Hollywood Reporter explains, prosecutors argued that the men had seen The Town in between the robberies and copied some of the tactics—wearing police uniform disguises and lifelike masks rather than simply wearing bandanas, and putting bleach on the bank counter to get rid of fingerprints and DNA.

Prosecutors showed jurors clips from the film and discussed them, noting to jurors that one of the defendants even had a shirt made depicting an "inside joke" from the movie. "But how did the techniques line up? They used bleach during their robbery," a prosecutor said during the trial. "What about the police uniforms? Yeah, they did that, too." Defense lawyers appealed, arguing that the clips were prejudicial, but the majority opinion was that the film clips "helped to show that the defendants’ modus operandi changed because they decided to incorporate ideas from the movie into their method for committing robberies." The justices ruled that the clips didn't taint the trial and the convictions would stand, though one judge, in a concurring opinion, wrote that there was a risk jurors "might conflate fiction and reality." (This would-be robbery also was a bumbling mess.)

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