BRATTLEBORO -- Shawn Arguin claimed that when he grabbed $4,000 from a Brattleboro bank teller and then gave it back a few minutes later, he simply wanted to be arrested.
A jury apparently agreed with that theory, deciding on Friday to convict Arguin on charges of false pretenses and false public alarms while acquitting him of attempted grand larceny and attempted larceny from a person.
The acquittals came on the two initial felony charges that had been filed against Arguin, 43, following the July 19 incident at Key Bank on Main Street.
But David Gartenstein, the Windham County deputy state's attorney who prosecuted the case, pointed out that Arguin still was convicted of a felony and faces up to 12 years in prison.
"As I explained during trial, and as the evidence showed, walking into a bank and beginning to commit a robbery is incredibly dangerous conduct," Gartenstein said. "And the jury concluded that it was felony false pretenses and false public alarm, which together met the defendant's own theory of why he engaged in the conduct."
Chris Montgomery, Arguin's defense attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment after the verdict. But he had argued during a trial in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division that his client was not guilty of larceny because he never intended to follow through with the robbery.
"There is no evidence that he had any intent to permanently deprive Key Bank of any money," Montgomery told Judge David Suntag after testimony had concluded on Thursday.
Gartenstein had called eight witnesses to the stand, including bank employees and several police officers who responded.
A teller at the bank -- situated one floor below the Windham County State's Attorney's office -- noticed Arguin "loitering" just before 10 a.m. and asked whether she could help him. She recalled his reply: "No, you can't help me. I'm robbing you."
The Jacksonville, Fla., man picked up two stacks of $20 bills totaling $4,000. He left behind a pile of $50 and $100 bills and, rather than leaving the bank, asked the teller to notify police before sitting down a few feet away.
After several minutes of confusion, and with police waiting outside with weapons drawn, Arguin was escorted from the bank by a former Brattleboro officer who had happened to wander into the bank as a customer.
"The subject looked at me, asked me if I'm a cop," retired Officer John Frechette recalled during Thursday's testimony. "After a short pause, I said, ‘Yes, I am.'"
Montgomery did not dispute the basic facts of the case. But jurors had to make a judgment about Arguin's intent when considering the charges, which Gartenstein had acknowledged offered "alternate theories as to the defendant's state of mind."
Arguin did not testify on his own behalf, and there were no defense witnesses. Jurors were allowed to report to Brattleboro a little later on Friday due to the winter storm, and they deliberated for more than three hours before reaching a verdict.
"It was a very complicated case involving unique circumstances," Gartenstein said. "We thank the jury for their service, and we respect their decision."
Arguin remains jailed in lieu of $50,000 bail. He will be sentenced at a later date.
Gartenstein said the felony false pretenses charge carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. False public alarms is a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.