Binkley to plead no contest in San Mateo

February 17, 2009 3:49:11 PM PST
A U.S. Army veteran found not guilty by reason of insanity last month of committing an armed robbery in Santa Clara County will likely plead no contest to similar charges in San Mateo County on Wednesday, his attorney said Tuesday.

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Sargent McGregor Binkley, 34, was arrested March 6, 2006, on suspicion of committing two armed robberies at Walgreens stores in Mountain View and San Carlos that year, according to defense attorney Charles Smith.

He was tried first in Santa Clara County for the Jan. 21, 2006, robbery in Mountain View, and was convicted of robbery with a gun and possession of drugs for having stolen painkillers in his possession when he was arrested, Smith said.

Jurors in Santa Clara County, however, later found Binkley not guilty by reason of insanity based on "mental conditions" that stemmed from his experience in the Army, according to Smith.

Binkley was sentenced to a minimum of six months in a state hospital for that robbery. He would have faced 12 years in state prison had he been found guilty, Smith said.

Binkley suffered from both post traumatic stress disorder and an addiction to drugs such as Percocet, which "caused his life to go into a downward spiral" following his discharge in December 2002 after nine years in the Army, Smith said.

During his time in service, Binkley, who was born and raised in Los Altos, served time in Bosnia and Honduras after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Smith said.

He was deployed to Bosnia in 1999 as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force, where he witnessed the aftermath of a genocide that "affected him so emotionally that he developed post traumatic stress disorder," Smith said.

His addiction to painkillers stemmed from an injury he received in the Army, according to Smith.

Upon returning to the U.S., Binkley moved to Los Angeles for several years where "he struggled with his addiction" before moving back to the Bay Area in August 2005, Smith said.

After the Mountain View robbery the following January, Binkley committed nearly the exact same crime at a San Carlos Walgreens store on March 3, 2006, according to Smith. He was arrested three days later.

The San Mateo District Attorney's Office charged him with one count of robbery with a gun and one count of assault with a gun, Smith said.

Binkley is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday and will likely plead no contest to the charges in order to avoid another trial, according to Smith.

Under the terms of the plea deal, Binkley will be given probation and credit for time served in jail. He remained in jail from the time of his arrest until December 2007, when he was released to the Jericho Project, a program in Daly City that offers help recovering from substance abuse and criminal behavior.

Smith said Tuesday Binkley is "relieved to that the legal proceedings are going to be concluded" Wednesday. "He's in good spirits," Smith said. "He wants to get better."

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