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Driver was ‘victim of circumstance,’ lawyer says

TUESDAY, MAY 25, 2010

The accused getaway driver for a suspected Spokane pharmacy robber is a respected professional who became an unwitting accomplice after meeting a young man at a bar, his lawyer said Monday.

David L. Ratener, senior sound engineer for seven Spokane radio stations, was released from jail on his own recognizance after appearing Monday in Superior Court on one count of first-degree armed robbery.

The 55-year-old, who has no criminal record, was arrested early Saturday with Robert K. Morris, 26, who police say robbed the Walgreens at Division Street and Empire Avenue of OxyContin.

“I think he was purely a victim of circumstance on this,” Ratener’s lawyer, Tim Note, said in court. “This is not the typical OxyContin theft.”

Ratener worked in Seattle radio for 30 years before taking a job in Spokane about five years ago. He met Morris at a bar Friday night, where they “had talked about going out and continuing the evening,” Note said.

Morris asked Ratener to stop at the Walgreens, and he complied, Note continued.

“There’s no indication that my client knew the Walgreens was being robbed,” Note said. Police said Ratener told them he didn’t know about the robbery when he was stopped.

But Judge Ellen Kalama Clark noted that a witness saw the men speed away in Ratener’s Toyota Tacoma with no headlights on after Morris fled the store. She called the case against Ratener “not the strongest … but it’s enough for probable cause today.”

Morris entered the store about 2:30 a.m. and appeared to be holding a weapon in his jacket pocket, witnesses told police. A customer in the drive-up window called 911.

Ratener and Morris declined interviews at the Spokane County Jail on Monday. Morris, a convicted felon, remains there on $50,000 bond for one count of first-degree robbery and three counts of possession of a controlled substance.

Police used a “confidential device” pharmacy employees gave to Morris with the OxyContin pills to track the men. Employees said Morris only got about 24 of the lowest dosage OxyContin pills; Walgreens’ Washington locations have been storing OxyContin supplies in time-release safes since last fall.

Morris tried swallowing those pills when police stopped him and Ratener early Saturday in the 3700 block of North Normandie Street, police said. He was taken to a hospital before being booked into jail.

Police say Morris also had suboxone, which is used to treat opiate addiction and alprazolam, an anxiety medicine, according to court documents.

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