Cape man arrested after attempting to rob an undercover police officer

Friday, September 28, 2007

When Harold L. Appel agreed to meet a contact in a hotel room Aug. 29 at the Town House Inn to complete a drug transaction, he intended to rob his dealer instead of selling him marijuana and ecstasy, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing Thursday.

What Appel didn't know was that the person he was meeting was undercover police officer Dan Seger.

Appel, 24, of Cape Girardeau told police as they arrested him that all he knew going into the hotel room was that the dealer's name was "Dan," and he'd recently been robbed by someone of the same name, said Seger during direct examination by Cape Girardeau prosecuting attorney Morley Swingle.

Upon searching Appel, Seger and the three other officers in the hotel room found a small bag believed to contain marijuana, according to a probable-cause statement.

Appel was charged with attempted robbery and possession of a controlled substance.

At the hearing before Circuit Judge Gary A. Kamp, Seger testified that he placed several phone calls to Appel, known to him as "Shorty," and arranged to purchase $1,050 worth of marijuana and ecstasy pills.

When Appel entered the hotel room to make the sale, he was apprehended by police, and immediately said "I ain't got no weed, I ain't got no weed, it was just a rob," Seger testified.

Public defender Jacob Zimmerman argued that Appel did not take action toward actually committing the robbery because he was arrested upon entering the room, and therefore could not have made an attempt to rob Seger.

Swingle countered with the argument that showing up at the hotel constituted a "substantial step" toward committing the offense, necessary to show that an attempt has been made.

Judge Kamp requested that both attorneys submit briefs stating their arguments before 9 a.m. Thursday.

Zimmerman also made an oral request for a bond reduction, filed by Appel's attorney Jennifer L. Booth, on the $50,000 on which Appel was being held at the Cape Girardeau County Jail, so he could attend his vocational school classes, but it was not yet ruled upon.

Following the hearing, Swingle filed a letter with the court citing and including an article he wrote that ran in the Journal of the Missouri Bar in summer of 2000 concerning the law of attempt.

The article outlined scenarios which would constitute a substantial step, including "lying in wait for the victim, enticing the victim to go to the place contemplated for the crime, or reconnoitering the place contemplated for the commission of the crime."

335-6611, extension 245

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