San Diego Neuroscientist Arrested in Connection With String of Bank Robberies

A San Diego neuroscientist was recently arrested in connection with a string of bank robberies across the county. According to reports, 43-year-old Karl William Doron is believed to be the mastermind of several successful and attempted credit union robberies between December and February. Surveillance footage from each of the banks places Doron at the scene.

Doron was under police surveillance when he allegedly committed at least one of the robberies. Police approached him after the heist and placed him under arrest. He was in possession of a loaded firearm at the time.

At his arraignment, Doron was formally charged with 10 counts of robbery and attempted robbery.

What is Robbery? How is it Different From Theft?

Robbery, as defined in California Penal Code 211 PC, is the “felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.”

In other words, a robbery occurs when you use force or intimidation to steal something from another person.

Robbery differs from other theft crimes in two very distinct ways. First, the crime of robbery can only be committed when another person is present. The person who is being robbed doesn’t necessarily have to know that they are the victim of a robbery. The important thing is that the theft occurs in the immediate presence of another person.

Second, Penal Code 211 PC explains that robbery requires theft by force or fear. Other crimes of theft can be done discreetly or without intimidation. Robbery, on the other hand, requires some element of force or persuasion.

What Does the State Have to Prove in a Robbery Case?

Doron has been charged with 10 counts of robbery and attempted robbery. However, the state has the burden of persuading a judge or jury that he is guilty of each of these crimes. Prosecutors will have to prove:

  • He took possession of property that didn’t belong to him
  • While that property was in another person’s possession
  • The property was taken from that person’s immediate presence against their will
  • He used force, fear, or intimidation to take the property or to prevent that person from resisting, and
  • He intended to take the property before or after the crime was committed.

The state also has to prove that Doron intended to deprive the owners of their property permanently.

What’s Considered Another Person’s Immediate Presence?

Robbery occurs when property is taken from another person’s immediate presence. Does this mean that a victim has to be physically holding onto property when it’s taken from them? Or can immediate presence be more broadly defined?

California has explained that property is in a victim’s immediate presence if it “is sufficiently within his or her physical control” and that “he or she could keep possession of it if not prevented by force or fear.”

So, immediate presence is broadly defined. For example, let’s say that Doron entered one of the banks and demanded cash from the tellers. It’s highly unlikely that the bank tellers had cash in their hands or in their pockets. They would have to open a drawer or safe to access the money. Is the money considered to be in their immediate presence? Yes. The tellers have control over the money and could have retained it if they had not been threatened by Doron.

First and Second Degree Robbery

Robbery is categorized as either first-degree robbery or second-degree robbery.

First-degree robbery occurs when the crime is committed:

  • In an inhabited dwelling
  • While someone is using, or had just used, an ATM, or
  • Against a driver of a taxi cab, bus, or trolley.

First-degree robbery is a felony, punishable by between 3 and 6 years in a California state prison, $10,000 in fines, and probation.

Second-degree robbery is any other robbery committed in the state of California. Second-degree robbery is also a felony, punishable by between 2 and 5 years in a California state prison, $10,000 in fines, and probation.

Doron can face the maximum penalty for each of the 10 counts of robbery with which he’s been charged.

Additional Jail Time For Committing a Robbery Using a Firearm

Doron allegedly used a loaded firearm to commit several robberies in San Diego. Under, California’s 10-20-Life law, also known as “use a gun and you’re done,” he could face additional time behind bars.

  • Additional 10 years for using a firearm during a robbery
  • Additional 20 years for discharging a firearm during a robbery
  • Additional 25 years to life for causing bodily harm or death with a firearm during a robbery.

These penalties are in addition to those imposed for the underlying offense. Doron could realistically be sentenced to prison for the rest of his life.

Doron faces an uphill battle. However, he does have the right to defend himself. His defense will be strongest if he hires an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney to handle his case.


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