A Michigan City man convicted last year for holding up multiple gas stations in LaPorte and Michigan City is not entitled to a new trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.
According to court records, Ian Rawls, 33, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for four counts of armed robbery and six years each on two counts of intimidation in connection with the robberies.
Rawls' robbery spree came to an end March 10, 2019, after he stole cash and all the Swisher brand cigars from the Save Gas Station in Michigan City, records show.
Following the robbery, records show the store clerk immediately called police and provided a detailed description of the robber, including his blue jeans that featured distinctive red and white squares sewn on the front and back pockets.
According to court records, police noticed the description of the perpetrator matched that of other nearby gas station robberies and quickly spotted a vehicle being driven near the Save Gas Station that matched the vehicle used in the other robberies.
After a brief chase, including a foot pursuit, police apprehended Rawls. His clothing matched the description provided by the store clerk, including the notable design on the jeans, and his vehicle contained a plastic bag full of Swisher cigars, records show.
Police then drove Rawls back to the Save Gas Station — just 13 minutes after the robbery — to ask the clerk if Rawls was the hold-up man. The clerk identified Rawls based in part on the clothing he was wearing, and later said she was "100%" confident he was the robber, according to court records.
In his appeal, Rawls challenged the show-up identification as impermissible and claimed he was entitled to a new trial, even though his attorney did not object to the clerk's testimony at Rawls' original trial.
The Court of Appeals, in a 3-0 ruling, agreed that while show-up identifications are inherently suggestive, they are not per se inadmissible.
In this case, the appellate court said the one-on-one show-up between suspect and victim was justified because it took place right after the robbery, in the same location as the robbery, while the image of the perpetrator was fresh in the clerk's mind. In addition, police presented a suspect matching the clerk's physical description of the robber, who also was wearing the same distinctive clothing.
"There was no error in the admission of this evidence, let alone fundamental error. Thus, we affirm Rawls' convictions," the appeals court said.
Records show Rawls still is awaiting trial for the alleged armed robbery of a Family Express gas station in Hobart on March 7, 2019 — just days before he began his LaPorte County robbery spree.
According to court records, a plea agreement in that case was reached July 30, 2021, but Lake Superior Judge Salvador Vasquez rejected the deal Sept. 20 due to Rawls' prior criminal history.
The next court hearing in that case is scheduled for Nov. 1.