Jury returns verdict in Cle Nightclub violent armed robbery
The jury deliberated for 10 minutes before convicting Hakeem Alexander Coles today for interference with commerce by robbery and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence following a five-day trial.
Coles, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, used a false identity to get hired as a security guard for Cle Nightclub. He worked there for about two weeks. On Sept. 7, 2019, after the business closed, he robbed the employees at gunpoint and demanded $20,000 cash.
At trial, the jury heard from witnesses who described how Coles was hired as a security guard using someone else’s identity. They also heard from employees at Cle who described how he had robbed them at gunpoint and discharged his firearm toward them as he fled the scene.
The investigation led to Coles’ arrest in Louisiana. At that time, he was found in possession of a loaded firearm and the false identification he used to gain employment at Cle. Law enforcement was soon able to uncover his true identity.
The jury also heard evidence of another robbery Coles had committed in Minneapolis three weeks prior to the Cle robbery. In that case, Coles was working as a security guard at Cowboy Jacks Bar and Restaurant and robbed the employees during closed hours as well. Coles pleaded guilty in 2020 and received 17 years in federal prison on that case.
The defense attempted to convince the jury in this case that Coles did not commit the crime and it was, in fact, the individual whose identity he had stolen. The jury did not believe those claims and found him guilty as charged.
U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. presided over trial and set sentencing for Aug. 26. At that time, Coles faces up to 20 years for the robbery and a minimum of 10 years and up to life for the firearms charge which must be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed.
Coles has been and will remain in custody pending sentencing.
The FBI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office; Gretna Police Department in Louisiana and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Britni Cooper and Luis Batarse prosecuted the case.
This is an example of coordination between law enforcement who are part of the Houston Law Enforcement Violent Crime Initiative which combines personnel and resources from numerous federal, state and local agencies.
The goal is to proactively fight and reduce violent crime across the Greater Houston area by targeting the region’s most violent offenders, augmenting investigative and prosecutorial efforts and enhancing training, public awareness and education. It stems from the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.
In May 2021, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced a new effort to reduce violent crime, including the gun violence that is often at its core. Integral to that effort was the reinvigoration of PSN, a two-decade old, evidence-based and community-oriented program focused on reducing violent crime.
The updated PSN approach, outlined in the department’s Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Violent Crime is guided by four key principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities and measuring the results of our efforts. The fundamental goal is to reduce violent crime, not simply to increase the number of arrests or prosecutions.