State Supreme Court Upholds Bank Robber’s Conviction

A Lexington bank robber’s conviction and prison sentence has been upheld by the Kentucky Supreme Court. But  unique details about the case led two justices to dissent.

In June 2005, Ronald Birdsong, with a bandana over his nose and mouth, robbed a Lexington bank. He never threatened any employees, but spoke loudly and knocked computer equipment over.

At trial, Birdsong argued he could not be found guilty of robbery because he did not use force or threaten to use force to harm anyone. The state argued Birdsong’s behavior constituted an implied threat to use force to harm a person.

The jury convicted him of second degree robbery and he got 12 years in prison. The conviction, later upheld by the Court of Appeals, has now been confirmed by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

In a 5-2 decision, the high court says even though Birdsong did not directly threaten bodily harm to anyone, it was not unreasonable for the jury to conclude his actions expressed an intention to inflict pain or injury.

Chief Justice John Minton and Justice Daniel Venters dissented.

By Tony McVeigh

Veteran broadcast journalist Tony McVeigh has been covering Kentucky politics since 1986, reporting for Clear Channel Communications before joining Kentucky Public Radio in 2004. His stories are aired by seven KPR affiliates, whose signals blanket the Commonwealth and parts of surrounding states. McVeigh began his broadcasting career at WRFC in Athens, Georgia, while earning a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia. He has extensive anchor/reporter experience, including stints with South Carolina Network and Georgia Radio News Service in Atlanta. In 2007 and 2008, McVeigh was named Best Radio Reporter in the Kentucky Associated Press Awards. He also picked up consecutive AP Awards for Best Political Coverage. McVeigh won four Kentucky AP Awards in 2009, six in 2010 - including Best Political Coverage and Best Hard News Feature - and three in 2011. His coverage of the 2007 Kentucky governor's race topped the Political Reporting category of the Society of Professional Journalists Green Eyeshade Awards of 2008. In 2009, McVeigh placed second in Courts and Law Reporting in the Atlanta-based competition for journalists in 11 Southern states. McVeigh is also the proud recipient of an Individual Liberty Award from the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The Brunswick, Georgia, native is a die-hard UGA football fan who enjoys photography, astronomy, live music, hiking Kentucky's Red River Gorge and exploring the state's beautiful back roads. McVeigh and his big, fat, black cat Simon, reside in Frankfort, KY.