In May 2010, Los Angeles hoodlums Laterrial Dewaun Norwood and Rashad Branagh donned ski masks, hooded sweatshirts and gloves to rob $26,577 from the Citizens Business Bank in Laguna Hills.
A California Highway Patrol officer noticed the getaway Chevrolet Suburban on the 405 and initiated a stop that spun out of control with shots fired and the suspects fleeing; Norwood on foot and Branagh in the vehicle.
Both men were eventually captured. Norwood received a 151-month prison sentence in April 2011 and five months later his partner in crime nabbed the same punishment.
We wouldn't hear from Branagh for many years, except that his defense lawyer allegedly forgot to file his requested post-sentencing appeal of a label U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna placed on him: career criminal.
Branagh rejects that characterization though he, a longtime drug addict who dropped out of high school, committed the Laguna Hills bank robbery while on parole, willingly became of a member of the Four Trey criminal street gang and has three separate Los Angeles County convictions: voluntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon and felon in possession of a firearm.
From his cell at United States Penitentiary McCreary in Eastern Kentucky, Branagh complained in October that his right to appeal had been violated because no action had been taken.
In essence, he'd been forgotten.
Earlier this week, inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, judge Selna agreed.
"[Branagh] claims that his counsel was constitutionally ineffective in failing to file a notice of appeal to allow him to contest this court's finding that he was a career criminal for purposes of sentencing," Selna wrote in his ruling. "The court finds that counsel fell below standards . . . and that the failure was prejudicial."
Selna gave the inmate 14 days to file his brief.
If the 37-year-old bank robber eventually wins the point, his 151-month prison sentence could be reduced by 24 months.
R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. Corporate crooks won’t take his calls. Murderous gangsters mad-dogged him in court. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Pusillanimous cops have left hostile messages using fake names. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. And a frantic state legislator literally caught sleeping with lobbyists sprinted down state capital hallways to evade his questions in Sacramento.