Jury takes 12 minutes to find man guilty He had argued that illness led him to flee from store

September 07, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County jury deliberated 12 minutes Friday before finding a Westminster man guilty of stealing a pair of $80 boots on a snowy afternoon last winter.

The four men and eight women, however, found Edward L. Kotmair, 39 -- who defended himself -- innocent of conspiring with his girlfriend to commit the theft Jan. 9 at the Sunny's Surplus store in Westminster.

Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. set sentencing for Nov. 12.

Kotmair can receive a maximum sentence of 18 months, said Melissa Hockensmith, an assistant state's attorney.

Kotmair claimed he left the store in a hurry because he had diarrhea.

Kevin Gilmore, then manager at Sunny's in the Crossroads Square Shopping Center, said Kotmair ran out of the store after being seen stuffing the boots under his waist-length jacket.

Kotmair argued that on the day of the incident, Gilmore told Westminster police Officer Robert Bertrand that he saw Kotmair leave with a bulge under his jacket.

The charging documents, however, stated that Gilmore saw Kotmair put the boots under his jacket and run to a waiting car.

"Were you lying then, or are you lying now?" Kotmair asked the for- mer store manager under cross-examination.

Gilmore said his story never changed.

Bertrand identified Martha Settle, Kotmair's girlfriend, as the driver of a car. Kotmair left without Brooke Holland, Settle's niece, who was shopping with him.

The car stopped at the end of the parking lot for several minutes.

Gilmore said he prevented Holland from leaving the store until police arrived. He said Holland appeared surprised by Kotmair's sudden departure.

Kotmair did not testify and Settle did not attend the trial.

In closing arguments, Hocken-smith asked jurors to consider why Kotmair and Settle did not return to pick up Holland.

"Why didn't he ask if Sunny's Surplus had a restroom, rather than drive away in the snow and leave Miss Holland behind?" Hockensmith asked.

"Why did the car stop at the end of the parking lot before driving away?" she asked. "That doesn't sound like something someone who is ill would do."

Kotmair contended that no evidence proving he took the boots was presented.

"Please don't send me to jail for having diarrhea," he said.

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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