The federal trial of a Gordonsville man indicted on seven counts of robbery and various other charges related to a string of robberies last year has been continued to August.
Dominique Dejone Thurston, 23, was arrested in September in connection with a robbery of a 7-Eleven in northern Albemarle County in which a clerk at the store was assaulted.
The federal charges Thurston is facing are under the Hobbs Act, which prohibits actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce in any way or degree. He’s also charged with seven counts of using a firearm in commission of a Hobbs Act robbery, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The federal indictment accuses Thurston of committing a series of armed robberies at businesses in Albemarle County, the City of Charlottesville and Stafford County between June 2020 and September 2020, according to a news release from acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Bubar, who oversees the Western District of Virginia.
These robberies included the Oak Hill Market in Albemarle County, 7-Eleven on Ivy Road in Charlottesville, a BP gas station convenience store in Charlottesville, 7-Eleven on Greenbrier Drive in Albemarle County, Kangaroo Gas in Albemarle County, 7-Day Junior Store in Charlottesville, and 7-Eleven on Boulderview Road in Albemarle County.
During each robbery, a suspect brandished a firearm, pointed it at a store employee and demanded cash, according to the release. Officials didn’t specify how much money was taken.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the robberies along with police departments in Albemarle County, Charlottesville and Stafford County. The ATF started working with local police in mid-September and initially offered $5,000 for the two suspects.
After Thurston was arrested, investigators recovered evidence that led them to conclude that there was only one suspect involved in all of the robberies, according to a news release.
U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon granted a defense motion to continue on March 23, citing the defense’s reasoning that the indictment charges multiple different offenses on different days and the discovery is “voluminous.”
“Reviewing the discovery with [Thurston] has been slowed due to COVID-19 restrictions at the jail,” Moon wrote. “Defense counsel notes that it is unlikely that an investigation and usual trial preparations can be completed by the currently scheduled trial date.”
Moon also wrote that although the current trial is scheduled for two days, the Government estimates that it is more likely to take five days, given the number of charges and potential witnesses involved, and does not object to the continuance.
The Speedy Trial Act generally requires that a criminal trial begin “within 70 days from the filing date (and making public) of the information or indictment” or the defendant’s initial appearance, whichever date last occurs, Moon wrote.
However, certain delays may be excluded from the 70-day count, including delays where the district court finds “that the ends of justice served by . . . granting . . . [a] continuance outweigh the best interests of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial,” which Moon wrote he found to be applicable here.
Thurston also initially faced charges related to the robberies in Albemarle County General District Court. However, all of those charges were nolle prossed last year, meaning the commonwealth opted not to pursue the charges.
Thurston still faces several charges in Charlottesville Circuit Court related to probation violations from an earlier sexual assault case.
According to city court records, the probation violation charges were filed in September just prior to the alleged robberies and stem from several 2015 convictions, including abduction with the intent to defile, forcible sodomy and forcible rape.
Thurston’s federal trial is now set to begin on August 2.