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Rolling found guilty of Gainesville bank robbery

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Danny Rolling, a Louisiana drifter indicted in the slayings of five college students in Gainesville in 1990, was convicted Monday of robbing a bank in the same city during the week the victims' bodies were found.

A U.S. District Court jury found Rolling, 37, of Shreveport, La., guilty of robbing the First Union National Bank of Gainesville of about $7,000 on Aug. 27, 1990. The case was moved because of pretrial publicity.

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The same day law enforcement authorities found the body of Christina Hoyt, 18, of Gainesville, about one-half mile from the bank.

Rolling showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Sentencing was scheduled for May 22. Rolling is already serving life in prison for several other bank robberies in Florida.

Alachua State Attorney Len Register spent 30 minutes giving closing arguments Monday. He went over the evidence, which included items found at a wooded campsite used by Rolling. He said a semi-automatic handgun, a brown ski mask and other items identified by eye witnesses and expert officials linked Rolling to the robbery.

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Register said Rolling needed to get out of Gainesville after the robbery. He said Rolling stole a car and drove to Tampa where he robbed a grocery store and stole another car. Rolling has been convicted in the Tampa incidents.

'In August 1990 in Gainesville it was as hot as a $2 pistol for a criminal,' Rolling said, in reference to the investigations of the student slayings and the bank robbery. 'He (Rolling) had to get out of there.'

Register urged jurors to believe the testimony of Tony Danzy, a drug user who met Rolling a week before the bank robbery. Danzy testified the two bought crack cocaine together.

Register admitted Danzy was currently jailed in Alachua County for cocaine possession but insisted he had no reason to lie about his involvement with Rolling.

'He may be involved with drugs. He may even forget his mother's birthday. But he's not going to forget who is buying him crack cocaine,' Register said.

Register said the eye witnesses who picked Rolling out of police lineups, along with the physical evidence was enough to convict.

'The evidence in this case can be viewed as nothing short of overwhelming,' he said. 'The presumption of innocence is there to protect the innocent person. Rolling can't use that here.'

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Assistant Public Defender Tom Miller spent less than 15 minutes for his closing arguments.

He called into question Danzy's credibility and said his testimony was 'suspect at best.'

Miller tried to discredit one witness, Chris Marmo, who testified he saw a masked Rolling run from the bank and later came across Rolling who was shirtless and not wearing a mask.

Miller said the lineup Marmo used to identify Rolling was unfair because not all of the suspects had hairless chests, like Rolling. Miller said that reduced the number of suspect choices Marmo could choose from and made the lineup unfair.

Miller did not deny the items found by law enforcement officials at the campsite but questioned how they got there. He said anyone could have put the items in the camp.

Rolling is not expected to go on trial for the Gainesville slayings until 1993 at the earliest.

Aside from Hoyt, the other Gainesville victims were Christina Powell, 17, Jacksonville; Sonya Larson, 18, Deerfield Beach; Tracey Paules, 23, Palm Springs North; and Manuel Taboada, 23, Carol City.

Although the prosecution was prohibited from using the student slayings in the robbery trial they hoped a conviction would, at least, positively place Rolling in Gainesville at the time the killings occured.

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