Woman gets 72-month federal prison sentence for robbing convenience stores

CHICAGO — A woman has been sentenced to 72 months in federal prison for participating in a string of convenience store robberies, mostly on the Northwest Side of Chicago.

Equesha Butler, 30, pleaded guilty to three counts of interfering with commerce by threat or violence before U.S. District Judge Sharon Coleman, according to court records. Coleman ordered her to surrender to federal authorities to begin serving her sentence by June 24. She must also pay $3,140 in restitution to the stores and three clerks who lost personal property during the crime.

Butler, a man named Kishawn Brownlee, and an unidentified third person first robbed a 7-Eleven store at 661 South Boulevard in Oak Park around 11:35 p.m. on April 13, 2022, federal prosecutors said.

As the store clerk tried to escape, Butler grabbed his shirt and pulled him back inside while Brownlee displayed a gun. Butler took merchandise, cash, and the victim’s phone.

Equesha Butler in 2014 (Chicago Police Department)

Less than an hour later, the trio allegedly robbed another 7-Eleven at 3800 North Kimball. According to federal officials, Brownlee displayed a gun and grabbed the clerk by the shoulders, directing them to open the registers as Butler and the third robber stole cigarettes, liquor, and lottery tickets from behind the counter.

Brownlee continues to fight federal charges in those cases.

Butler participated in another 7-Eleven robbery spree with two juvenile accomplices early on July 29, 2022, prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum. During each robbery, one juvenile demanded cash while pointing a gun at the cashier, the other kept lookout at the front door, and Butler took tobacco and other merchandise from behind the counter, according to their memorandum.

In less than 30 minutes, the crew robbed 7-Eleven stores at 2366 North Damen, 4771 North Elston, and 4346 North Kimball, officials said.

Prosecutors sought a sentence of 89 to 108 months, citing Butler’s background, which includes two shoplifting cases and the 2014 robbery of a Clybourn Corridor store that resulted in a six-year prison sentence.

Butler’s attorneys argued for “a sentence of significantly less than the advisory guideline range.” Writing in the defense sentencing memorandum, attorney Kent Carlson said Butler was “saddened and embarrassed for her conduct. Her actions herein have gone against everything she has ever stood for.”

“Telling her family [about the robberies] was one of the hardest things she had ever had to do,” Carlson wrote. The humiliation Butler felt when she told her family about the crimes “is far worse punishment than any [prison] sentence.”

Carlson suggested that Butler became involved in the robberies because she was in an “extremely abusive” relationship with Brownlee at the time. Federal prosecutors countered that Brownlee was only involved in the first two robberies. Butler went on to commit three more robberies months later with two different accomplices.

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Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com