Photo by Brian Giandelone
CONYERS -- One of the National Guard soldiers accused of a bank robbery last year received a $250,000 jail bond in Rockdale County Superior Court on Monday morning.
Jemelle Lloyd Francis appeared before Rockdale County Chief Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation. He has yet to be formally charged by a grand jury, so, by law, he is entitled to a bond.
Nation ultimately followed the state's recommendation and set a $250,000 bond for Francis.
Francis, 25, of Grayson and Menshack Jah Nyepah, 21, of Decatur each face charges of armed robbery and aggravated assault in connection to the Dec. 23, 2010, incident at Georgia's Own Credit Union, located at 620 Sigman Road. Conyers police tracked down Francis shortly after the incident and Nyepah turned himself in a few days later.
Sean Jamarko Foster, 21, of Stone Mountain was taken into custody a week after the robbery. He was the alleged getaway driver and faces the same charges as Francis and Nyepah.
Assistant District Attorney Paul Stalcup told the court that Francis was the suspect who allegedly jumped over the counter during the heist involving two masked gunmen. Stalcup said Francis also reportedly confessed to the crime and implicated the two other co-defendants.
The three men are also suspects in other armed robberies in Cartersville, Lawrenceville and Snellville, according to Stalcup.
"According to my conversation with the detective, these are apparently a robbery crew committing a series of armed robberies," Stalcup said, adding that Dollar General stores were the suspected robberies.
Roswell-based attorney David Baum defended Francis. Baum said his client held the rank of a specialist, promotable to sergeant, and had a "bright future."
"He was a standout specialist, as a matter of fact," Baum said, explaining how Francis just finished training to be a non-commissioned officer.
Baum indicated a "coercion defense" may be coming, as Francis knew Nyepah through the military and Foster was allegedly a friend of Nyepah. The attorney pointed out family members and fellow soldiers who were in the courtroom to support Francis and said Francis had "a solid background."
Francis would be able to continue his military service if he bonded out, according to Baum, who said he talked with Francis's first sergeant. The unit is set to deploy in October, Baum said.
Nation reminded everyone that Francis faces life in prison as a maximum sentence if he is convicted. The judge also questioned what would happen if Francis bonds out and is deployed.
"If I was in the Army and I was faced with this and I had already admitted some participation in it, even though I had a defense, I'm not sure if I'd be in a big hurry to come back to the United States," Nation said. "Not at the possibility of life in prison."