Boy describes for 2 hours being robbed at knifepoint

June 28, 1996|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

In a Howard County Circuit courtroom yesterday, 13-year-old Tony DiGiovanni faced the man he says robbed and cut him Sept. 17 as he was walking to his home in Columbia's Wilde Lake village.

For at least two hours, the boy talked about the night he was robbed of about $5 -- $3 of it in change -- sometimes speaking so quietly that it was impossible for people in the back of the courtroom to hear him. "I was horrified," said the boy, who will be a ninth-grader this fall.

But because no physical evidence links the defendant to the crime, the case may come down to the boy's word against the defendant's.

The trial of Antonio Beard, 29, of Columbia began yesterday and is expected to end today. Beard is charged with assault with intent to maim and robbery in connection with the attack.

That September evening, the boy had been making photocopies for a social studies project and was walking home on West Running Brook Road about 7: 30 when he heard a car slow behind him. Someone jumped out and asked directions.

Suspicious, the boy began to run, but his backpack was heavy and soon he was on the ground with a knife to his throat, he testified.

He said two men were involved in the attack. He gave them the money, he testified, but then one cut him on the chest. The boy said he ran to a nearby house, where a resident -- a medical student -- treated him.

Beard's attorney, Samuel Truette, challenged the youth's identification of Beard.

The boy has given varying descriptions of his assailants to police and in earlier hearings, Truette told the jurors. The boy pointed out the defendant two months later, after police showed him 41 mug shots.

Just days before the attack, Beard had been assaulted and nearly had his ear cut off, Truette said, adding that Beard would have had noticeable bandages on his ear that day.

There were other discrepancies in the boy's account, the defense said. He first told police his assailant had scars under his eyes, but yesterday he said the attacker did not have scars.

And the boy identified the second assailant as white, then later said he was black, Truette said.

"You are called upon to believe with certainty the words of just one young man. I suggest that you do that by starting off with grave doubts," Truette said in his opening statement.

Assistant State's Attorney Sue Ellen Hantman told jurors that the boy's word was all they needed.

"You will hear Tony DiGiovanni identify this person as the one who robbed and stabbed him," Hantman told the jury. "Ladies and gentlemen, that is enough to find Antonio Beard guilty."

Pub Date: 6/28/96

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