Denver man loses job, house after bank-robbery charges, despite alibis
03/09/2016 12:31 pm PST
Denver Police release video of a male suspect robbing a bank, the second bank he's robbed. Do they have the wrong man?
Steve Talley was living a quiet life as a Denver financial services advisor -- until he fell into a deep legal abyss.
While sound asleep on the chilly evening of Sept. 15, 2014, police roust him from his dreams. And a terrifying nightmare begins: an FBI task force, including a SWAT team and Denver Police bust him and book him for aggravated robbery and assaulting an officer.
"At the same time he said it, almost instantaneously I'm getting beaten, he's got an extendable baton, and went like 'whoosh,' and he literally said 'Don't ---- with the biggest gang in Denver,' and boom, hits me right in the groin area," said Talley.
Talley told police he was innocent.
"I just said, 'You've got the wrong guy, you guys are crazy,'" said Talley.
But, he says, the cops continued to brutally beat him.
"They broke my third, fourth, fifth, sixth ribs," said Talley. "The guy that stood on my face cracked all my teeth on my left side."
Was the whole brutal ordeal a simple case of mistaken identity?
Surveillance video does show someone who looks like Talley staging a heist at a Denver U.S. Bank. The video shows a man checking for cameras, demanding money and getting chased by a bank security guard as he makes his getaway. The security guard loses his grip and the bank robber breaks away.
In another caper pulled just four months after the first, the suspect looks like the same guy wearing a black baseball cap. This time, the robber is wearing clear surgical gloves and hands the teller a note claiming he's armed with a .45-caliber handgun. She passes him an envelope stuffed with money, but the bandit walks away before she can dole out more dough.
Talley was hauled in as the bank robber. He immediately pleaded not guilty to the charges. Denver affiliate KDVR has been following Talley's crazy tale, explaining that he continually told cops he's not the man caught on camera.
"It's just ridiculous, I knew it wasn't me," said Talley. "They have someone that's supposedly 175 pounds, I'm 240, I'm almost 6 foot 4."
After spending two long months in jail, he finally caught a break, handing over an airtight alibi for the first holdup: a time-stamped audio recording of a call he made at work.
His charges were dismissed -- but not before Talley suffered another blow, losing his job and his home.
"I had a family, I had a career and I haven't seen my kids in like 17 months," said Talley.
At that point Steve Talley believed he had suffered enough from mistaken identity. He hoped his nightmare was finally over.
Not so fast: He was blindsided again.
Incredibly, upon his release, Talley says the detective who originally arrested him made a disturbing threat.
"'I'm going to throw your ass back in jail, we're going to re-file,'" said Talley.
And one year later that's exactly what happened.
Prosecutors claimed FBI facial recognition technology didn't identify him in the first robbery, but did in the second. Once again, Talley faced charges of armed robbery.
And once again, Steven Talley wasn't going down without a fight. According to his attorney, Talley has a distinctive mole on his right cheek, something that doesn't show up on the bank's surveillance video, even with FBI enhancements.
"If they can miss a mole on his face, I don't know how anyone can rely on this facial recognition technology," said Ben Hartford, Talley's defense attorney.
So how did this all start? Cops were originally tipped off when a maintenance worker in Talley's office building pointed the finger at him. Talley's ex-wife also said she recognized him on the surveillance tapes.
But the prosecution has one big problem: Their key eyewitness, the bank teller who handed over the money, says Talley wasn't right guy.
"Their only witness at the bank comes in and says she's 100-percent sure it's not me," said Talley.
During a preliminary hearing, the bank teller reportedly also testified that she saw strange markings on the bank robber's hands, markings that don't exist on Steve Talley.
"If the marks don't fit, you must acquit," said Hartford.
As it turns out, Talley also had an alibi for the second holdup: He had checked in on a signup list at a food bank at the time the heist took place.
"I figured at that point they were just going to dismiss it because they didn't have a case," said Talley. "It was ridiculous."
The Denver District Attorney's Office released a statement: "The testimony at the preliminary was a surprise to the prosecutor .... She will now have to assess the case in light of our burden of proof."
Despite the conflicting testimony from the bank teller, the Denver District Attorney's Office said in part: "The preliminary hearing is not a preview of evidence in this case" and at this point they are still pursuing the robbery charge against Talley.
The court released Talley from custody. Yet three days later, the court again issued a new warrant for his arrest, this time accusing Talley of forgery in an unrelated case.
"I suspect that it's retaliation for the things that have been occurring to me for the last 17 months," said Talley. "I'm pretty pissed. I'm really tired of this."
The charges stem from an accusation involving Talley's landlord. Talley thought he had resolved the issue a year ago and his attorney questions the timing.
He believes the second arrest is retaliation by the lead detective in his case, Jeffrey Hart, who had a disciplinary letter placed in his file after an Internal Affairs investigation found he didn't follow the proper lineup procedures during the investigation of Talley.
"The story breaks and then we have our day in court and then a new charge," said Hartford. "The timing is curious at best."
"These are supposed to be educated people that prosecute the guilty and protect the innocent, and they're doing everything they possibly can to character-assassinate," said Talley.
Talley is now living in a homeless shelter awaiting trial on forgery charges. His second bank robbery charge is still in limbo until another hearing in March.