Jury is ready to deliberate fate of Army sergeant accused in ATM robbery

November 01, 1994|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writer

The attorney for an Army sergeant accused of armed robbery told a Howard Circuit Court jury yesterday that his client was the victim of a terrible coincidence when he was arrested minutes after the crime next to an automated teller machine.

But a county prosecutor said the defendant was at the bank machine trying to use a Florida man's credit card to obtain money after the victim was assaulted and robbed in a Jessup motel.

A jury of six men and six women will have to choose between those two versions of what happened Feb. 5 when they begin deliberations today in the trial of Army Sgt. John Easter Moore Jr., 26, an emergency medical technician assigned to the pediatric clinic at Fort Meade.

Sergeant Moore is accused of robbing Fred Worthington of Port St. Lucie, Fla., while Mr. Worthington was staying at the Red Roof Inn in the 8000 block of Washington Blvd.

He is charged with armed robbery, burglary, weapons violations and battery. If convicted of all the charges, Sergeant Moore could face 30 years in prison, said Joseph Murtha, the assistant state's attorney prosecuting the case.

George A. Epstein, Sergeant Moore's attorney, said his client was not involved in the robbery and was at the ATM only by coincidence.

"He was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong kind of weather," Mr. Epstein said. "He was a black man wearing a ski mask on a cold winter night in Jessup."

According to the victim, two men wearing ski masks forced their way into his hotel room about 9 p.m., hit him on the head with a gun and tied him up, leaving him in the bathtub.

Because the victim did not know the personal identification numbers for the credit cards he was carrying, the men called his wife collect in Florida and told her to give them the numbers or they would kill her husband, the victim's wife testified.

The victim was unable to identify Sergeant Moore. Police have not identified any other suspects.

Sergeant Moore was arrested by police while standing next to an ATM at a nearby bank minutes after the robbery. He was wearing a ski mask, and the victim's credit card was later recovered from inside the machine.

Mr. Murtha pointed to a statement made by Sergeant Moore minutes after he was arrested as an indication of his involvement in the robbery. "He said, 'I can't believe how stupid I was. What are the chances of this ruining my military career? I had a good one going,' " testified Officer Thomas Morello, who arrested Sergeant Moore.

Testimony and closing arguments are expected today.

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