Witness' failure to testify may jeopardize case

July 25, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Lawyers for a man accused of robbing a Westminster pizza deliveryman in August have asked that charges against him be dropped because the prosecution has twice been unable to produce their key witness at trial.

It's been almost a year since Christopher Bell was robbed of $150 at gunpoint.

Even though Carroll County prosecutors have arrested a man and charged him in the crime, they have been unable to bring him to trial -- because their key witness keeps failing to show up.

Twice juries have almost been selected and judges have had to send them home because the state was unable to present its case.

Tired of waiting for prosecutors to produce their chief witness, lawyers for Jonathan Todd Jarboe last week asked a county judge to drop the armed robbery and witness intimidation charges against him.

"The continuances in this case have resulted in denial of the defendant's right to a speedy trial and denial of the defendant's due process and fundamental fairness rights under the constitution . . .," Assistant Public Defender Martha Ann Sitterding wrote in her motion to dismiss the case.

Mr. Jarboe, 23, of Westminster was arrested in October after an acquaintance of his told police that he had bragged to her about the robbery. He has been in the Carroll County Detention Center on and off since then, serving 168 days before being released Thursday on $5,000 bond.

Twice he has appeared in Carroll Circuit Court -- in April and earlier this month -- for a jury trial. Twice the state has asked for, and been granted, a postponement because the acquaintance failed to appear to testify.

"To date, no witness has taken the stand to testify against the defendant and [he] has been given no opportunity to present any defense he has to the charges against him," Ms. Sitterding wrote.

While Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III declined to discuss the Jarboe case, he has said in court filings and arguments before county judges that if Mr. Jarboe wanted his case heard quickly, Angela Bailey, his friend who is the state's key witness, shouldn't have been intimidated and threatened.

"As a result of the defendant's conduct and the threats made against the state's witness, the state has been unable to locate and interview" her, Mr. Walker wrote in a motion to have Angela Bailey arrested in April. "The state has been prevented from properly preparing for trial."

Ms. Bailey, of Westminster, was arrested as a material witness in April, and released. After her release, prosecutors charged Mr. Jarboe with intimidating and threatening her. She has not been seen by prosecutors since May, and, according to Mr. Walker last week, all they have are "leads" to her whereabouts. But he would not disclose those leads to a judge for "security reasons."

Prosecutors contend that she is the only person who can connect Mr. Jarboe to the armed robbery. Mr. Bell has said that he could not identify his two attackers, who were wearing stocking masks. No other person has been arrested in the robbery.

Mr. Jarboe's lawyer has asserted that holding him for trial while the state searches for its witness is unfair. She has said that even though the state claims Ms. Bailey was intimidated by Mr. Jarboe, a charge is not proof.

It is the charge of intimidation that the state -- and Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. -- have relied on to keep the case alive, court records show.

Ms. Sitterding opposed combining the intimidation and armed robbery cases. Judge Beck, in June, agreed with prosecutors that "the separate offenses are unquestionably linked by a common motive" and ordered the cases joined.

Had they not been combined, the intimidation case -- for which prosecutors say they have a witness who saw Ms. Bailey threatened -- would have gone to trial in District Court Wednesday, the day before Mr. Jarboe was released from the Carroll County Detention Center.

The combined case was supposed to go to trial July 7, but, as she did in April, Ms. Bailey failed to appear. Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold again granted a postponement, and ordered Mr. Jarboe held without bond until the July 18 hearing.

Ms. Bailey left a letter for her parents that said she was frightened for their safety. She also wrote negatively of Mr. Walker, who introduced the letter into the court record. "I won't be able to contact you, but hopefully someday . . . I can come

home," she wrote.

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