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141161 - People v Williams (Glenn)

The People of the State of Michigan,
Charles F. Justian
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
(Muskegon – Hicks, T.)
Glenn Terrance Williams, a/k/a Glen Terrance Williams,
Peter Ellenson


​Glenn Williams entered the Admiral Tobacco store in Muskegon County and approached the store clerk, who was behind the cash register. Standing to the side of the register and holding his hand inside his coat, Williams told the clerk, “[Y]ou know what this is, just give me what I want.” Williams fled, however, without obtaining anything.

Williams was arrested and charged as a fourth felony offender, with armed robbery and assault with intent to rob while armed. Williams agreed to plead guilty to armed robbery. At the plea hearing, Williams admitted that he entered the Admiral Tobacco store with his hand under his coat, intending to steal money. The prosecutor and defense counsel agreed that the facts were sufficient to support a conviction for armed robbery. Williams was sentenced to 24 to 40 years in prison.

Williams later moved to withdraw his guilty plea; he claimed that, because he did not take anything from the store, he was not guilty of armed robbery, MCL 750.529. The armed robbery statute states that a person is guilty of armed robbery if he “engages in conduct proscribed under section 530 [MCL 750.530]” and “in the course of engaging in that conduct, possesses a dangerous weapon or an article used or fashioned in a manner to lead any person present to reasonably believe the article is a dangerous weapon, or who represents orally or otherwise that he . . . is in possession of a dangerous weapon . . . .” MCL 750.530(1) explains that a person is guilty of robbery who, “in the course of committing a larceny . . . uses force or violence against any person who is present, or who assaults or puts the person in fear . . . .” Section 530 adds that the phrase “in the course of committing a larceny” includes “acts that occur in an attempt to commit the larceny, or during the commission of the larceny, or in flight or attempted flight after the commission of the larceny, or in an attempt to retain possession of the property.” MCL 750.530(2). Relying on this subsection, the prosecutor responded that Williams could be convicted of armed robbery based on his attempt to commit a larceny. The trial court agreed and denied Williams’ motion to withdraw his plea.

Williams appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed in a split published opinion. The majority concluded that the statutory language defining robbery and armed robbery, which the Legislature amended in 2004, now encompassed robbery attempts; a completed larceny is no longer required for an armed robbery conviction, the majority said. The dissenting judge did not agree, saying that the Legislature, in response to a ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court, People v Randolph, 466 Mich 532 (2002), merely sought to clarify that robbery “encompasses acts that occur before, during, and after the larceny.” Williams appeals.