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Franklin man sentenced to more than 12 years for Asheville bank robbery

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Chief U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger sentenced William Keith Leonhart, 41, of Franklin, N.C., to 154 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for robbing at gunpoint an Asheville bank, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

According to filed court documents and yesterday’s sentencing hearing, on August 5, 2019, the Asheville Police Department received a call regarding an armed robbery of the First Citizens Bank located at 1201 Tunnel Road in Asheville. Court records show that Leonhart had entered the bank, approached a teller and brandished a firearm. While pointing his firearm at the teller, Leonhart gave the teller a threatening demand note. The teller handed Leonhart approximately $500 out of her cash drawer and Leonhart fled the scene in a stolen vehicle. The next day, law enforcement identified Leonhart driving a second stolen vehicle in Black Mountain, N.C. Following a vehicle chase, Leonhart was arrested, and law enforcement recovered from inside the vehicle the firearm Leonhart had used during the robbery. According to court records, Leonhart had previously robbed the same bank in 2013, and had received a sentence of 66-89 months in prison.

In October 2019, Leonhart pleaded guilty to one count of bank robbery and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. He is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.

In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Murray thanked the Asheville Police Department, the Black Mountain Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their investigation of this case. He also thanked District Attorney Todd Williams for his office’s coordination over the course of the prosecution of this case.

Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA) Alexis Solheim prosecuted the case.  Ms. Solheim is a state prosecutor with the office of the 30th Prosecutorial District, and was assigned by District Attorney Ashley Welch to serve as SAUSA with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.  Ms. Solheim is duly sworn in both state and federal courts.  The SAUSA position is a reflection of the partnership between the office of the 30th Prosecutorial District and the United States Attorney’s Office.  The SAUSA position helps ensure the effective and vigorous prosecution of federal court cases that impact the counties within the 30th Prosecutorial District.

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