Man convicted in gas station break-in

June 04, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

A jury of seven women and five men convicted a Westminster man yesterday in the November burglary of a local gas station.

Joseph Phillip Zemo, 24, was found guilty in Carroll Circuit Court of breaking into and stealing from the Direct To You gas station in the first block of George St. on Nov. 16.

The defendant was convicted on two counts of breaking and entering, a theft count and two counts of malicious destruction of property.

Zemo was implicated in the crime by Anthony Thomas Hughes, 27, who was convicted and sentenced Tuesday for his role in eight Westminster break-ins between May and December 1992.

As a part of an agreement with prosecutors, Hughes pleaded guilty to three counts of breaking and entering and one count of felony theft.

He was sentenced to what amounts to 12 years in state prison, which will run concurrently with the 10-year sentence Hughes is serving for violating his probation by holding up a Finksburg convenience store in 1988.

Hughes testified that he and Zemo broke into the gas station office and took money from two vending machine coin boxes, stole cigarettes, and tried to drill into the top of a floor safe.

Judy Hughes, Hughes' wife, and Brian Lee, who said he loaned Hughes a crowbar for the break-in, said they saw the money and cigarettes the two men said they took from the gas station.

Public Defender Barbara Kreinar told the jury in closing arguments that Hughes was not credible because he implicated Zemo to get a lighter sentence.

"Anthony Hughes is a criminal who knows that the way to minimize jail time is to turn someone else in," Ms. Kreinar said. "He's a thief, he's a robber, he has assaulted, but most of all he's a liar."

Said Prosecutor Christy McFaul: "Just because Anthony Hughes a bad person -- he is a criminal, he robbed, [committed] reckless endangerment -- that doesn't mean that he is a liar. That doesn't mean Joseph Zemo wasn't there that night."

The jury spent two hours deliberating with only one break to ask two questions of Judge Luke Burns.

As jury foreman Wesley Pahl of Sykesville announced the verdict, Zemo stood with his hands in his pockets. Once Mr. Zemo sat down, he wiped his hand across his forehead and down his face.

Zemo faces a maximum of 12 years in jail and $2,000 in fines when he is sentenced in August.

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