COLUMBUS, Ga. (Tribune News Service) — Two men accused of using a fake Army M-16 rifle called a “rubber duck” in a string of 2013 armed robberies pleaded guilty Friday in Muscogee County Superior Court in Georgia.
One, Timothy Gardner, pleaded guilty in 10 Columbus armed robberies and one in Harris County. Accomplice Joshua Hooks pleaded guilty in the Harris County robbery plus four Columbus robberies.
Gardner, who faced an additional charge of possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, was sentenced to 25 years in prison with 15 to serve and the rest on probation. Hooks was sentenced to 20 years in prison with 13 to serve and the rest on probation.
Judge Art Smith III also banished each man from Columbus’ six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit while on probation.
Prosecutor Wesley Lambertus said Gardner was captured Nov. 11, 2013, after armed robberies of the Holland’s Corner store at 1477 Ga. Highway 219 in Harris County and the Circle K at 3841 Miller Road in Columbus.
Witnesses told police of seeing a blue Ford Crown Victoria that investigators determined was registered to Gardner and found parked outside Gardner’s apartment in Columbus, Lambertus said.
Gardner admitted his role in the robberies and in turn implicated Hooks and other codefendants, the prosecutor said. Hooks provided the fake assault rifle for the robberies, Lambertus said.
Such rifles are used in military training before recruits are issued real weapons. The prosecutor said police described the one Hooks had as “plastic-coated.”
The fake gun was used in all of the robberies, in which the robbers took not only cash, but also Newport brand cigarettes that police found in Gardner’s home, Lambertus said.
“They were all Newport cigarettes,” he added.
In sentencing the two, Smith told them that having used a dummy gun, they were lucky no one in the stores pulled a real gun in self-defense, particularly when bystanders could have been hit accidentally.
Here are the other 2013 Columbus robberies to which Gardner pleaded guilty:
- The Shell station at 1801 12th Ave. on Oct. 15.
- The Circle K at 2514 Manchester Expressway on Oct. 22.
- The Shell station at 5757 Buena Vista Road on Oct. 26.
- The Church’s Chicken at 405 18th St. on Nov. 16.
- The Bargain Town at 2326 Francis St. on Nov. 19.
- The Family Dollar at 3126 Veterans Parkway on Nov. 21.
- The Circle K at 2510 Manchester Expressway on Nov. 24.
- The Circle K at 5758 Milgen Road on Nov. 24.
- The Family Dollar at 2111 Buena Vista Road on Nov. 25.
Hooks was involved in robberies of the Manchester Expressway Circle K on Oct. 22; the Buena Vista Road Shell station on Oct. 26; the Miller Road Circle K on Nov. 11; and the Buena Vista Road Family Dollar on Nov. 25, Lambertus said.
The prosecutor said authorities could not for restitution cite specific amounts of what was taken in some of the robberies because police neglected to include that in their reports, and some businesses apparently kept no record of it.
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