An accused bank robber and part-time rapper from Spokane who calls himself “Dead Poet” told a U.S. District Court jury Thursday he wasn’t one of three men who robbed a North Side credit union of almost $10,000 a year ago.
John “Bobby” Vigil testified he accompanied his longtime friends Brad, Greg and Dustin Rockstrom on a trip to Montana after they held up the Safeway Federal Credit Union on Nov. 28, 2006, while he was home taking a shower.
Brad Rockstrom, 25, and Greg Rockstrom, 22, pleaded guilty in September to armed bank robbery and were sentenced to 45 and 48 months in prison, respectively.
Their brother, Dustin Rockstrom, 24, also was indicted with his two brothers in February on a charge of armed bank robbery, but that was later amended to being an accessory after the fact. His testimony and secret tape recordings made for the FBI by his girlfriend ultimately led federal authorities to conclude in August that Vigil was the third hooded robber inside the credit union.
On trial this week for armed bank robbery and attempted witness tampering, Vigil took the stand in his own defense. Dustin Rockstrom testified as a prosecution witness against his now-former friend in exchange for what’s expected to be a lighter prison sentence.
Vigil testified that while smoking marijuana a few days before the robbery, he and the Rockstrom brothers discussed “scoping out some places” to rob. But the 26-year-old defendant said he was at his home at 906 E. Rich on Nov. 28, 2006, when the three Rockstrom brothers showed up, stuffing hats, gloves and a pellet gun into a duffel-like bag full of money from the credit union.
When he learned that the Rockstrom brothers had used his Chevrolet Lumina as the getaway car and crashed it in a nearby alley while being chased by a citizen, Vigil testified he made the hasty decision to flee with his three friends, knowing police would arrive shortly. Vigil’s cell phone was found in the wrecked car.
“Did you go inside the Safeway Federal Credit Union on Nov. 28?” defense attorney Terry Ryan asked his client.
“No, no sir,” the defendant responded from the witness stand.
Vigil is a self-described white rapper who has sold a self-produced compact disc of his music.
“Are you also known as ‘Dead Poet?’ ” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Kimball asked the defendant.
“I signed ‘Dead Poet’ on my driver’s license,” Vigil responded.
Kimball later asked the defendant about several seemingly incriminating statements he made during discussions with Dustin Rockstrom’s girlfriend. The young woman was wearing a “wire” for FBI agents who were attempting to determine the identity of the third robber in the credit union with Brad and Greg Rockstrom.
In a couple of the secretly recorded statements, Vigil talks about “making a pact” with the Rockstrom brothers to not “rat each other out” about their individual involvement in the robbery.
The prosecutor later got Vigil to admit he lied to FBI agents when they initially asked him of his whereabouts on the day of the holdup. He told agents he was at his sister’s house, but told the jury Thursday that was a lie, that he really accompanied the Rockstrom brothers to Montana after the robbery they staged while he was at home taking a shower.
“I think everyone lies to the FBI,” Vigil said, later explaining that some of his other statements on the tape recordings were “wolf tickets” – unabashed boasting.
At another point on the tape, Vigil is heard saying the robbery was planned because the participants were “tired of being broke.” But Vigil said he was working as a framer for his uncle’s construction company and was paying his bills. He said it was his friends, the Rockstroms, who needed money.
“Dustin is the third person in the bank,” Vigil later testified when shown surveillance photos showing three men, wearing masks and hooded sweatshirts. “As far as being in the bank, I wasn’t there. Period.”
The case before U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko is expected to go to the jury today after closing arguments.
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