Although a jury refused to hold Darel Alston responsible for the death of a Baltimore tavern owner beaten with a baseball bat last year, a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge today said he was convinced the Anne Arundel County man was partly responsible for the death.
With that, Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. sentenced Alston, 19, of Hanover, to 20 years -- the maximum sentence -- for robbing Leonard Gerber. The 63-year-old Gerber was struck with an aluminum baseball bat during the robbery in May 1989 and died nearly two months later in the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore.
In September, a jury found Alston, of the 1400 block of Holston Court, guilty of robbing Gerber.
Alston admitted striking Gerber with the bat. But the jury decided he was not responsible for murder after doctors testified that Gerber suffered two heart attacks, organ failure and a serious infection while in Shock-Trauma 53 days after the beating.
The judge said during sentencing today that despite the jury's findings, he was convinced Alston was ultimately responsible for Gerber's death.
Then, Murphy sentenced Alston to 20 years, a sentence which will run consecutively to, or after, another 25-year sentence imposed on the young man for another robbery.
Another jury and a judge had earlier found two Alston accomplices, Charles "Will" Westbrook and Edward Love Anderson, both 19, guilty of first-degree murder in Gerber's death.
In January, a county Circuit Court jury convicted Anderson of first-degree felony murder and a judge later sentenced him to life in prison. In April, a county Circuit Court judge convicted Westbrook of first-degree felony murder.
Gerber, who owned Lenny's Bar on South Hanover Street, was attacked in the front of his apartment in the 8200 block of Church Lane in Pikesville.
According to court files, the three men had followed Gerber for several days prior to the incident. On the night of May 6, 1989, Alston, Westbrook and Anderson, again followed Gerber to his apartment. When Gerber reached the door to his apartment, the three men approached and Alston struck him in the head with the bat.
Stealing Gerber's jewelry, handgun, and about $1,000 in receipts from the bar, the three men left him in the doorway.
While an assistant state medical examiner had initially called the death a homicide because of the head injury, he testified that ultimately the death was caused by the serious infection Gerber developed. A Shock-Trauma physician testified that the head injury Gerber received was not life-threatening.
Dr. William Brownlee, a former District of Columbia coroner, testified that there was no swelling of the brain or any indication that the head injury led to two heart attacks Gerber had while at the hospital. Michele Nowak, an assistant public defender, said at the trial two months ago. And there was no evidence that a serious infection, to which Gerber succumbed, came from the head injury.