Court rejects brothers' appeal Baltimore men convicted in bank robberies

August 19, 1998|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A federal court has refused the appeal of Anthony and Michael Zenone, two Baltimore brothers convicted in a 1996 spree of violence that prosecutors say culminated with two mysterious murders and three bank robberies.

The decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals effectively ends the criminal case against the men, who argued they were convicted based on evidence wrongfully seized in an FBI search of their Northeast Baltimore home. They also claimed that a federal judge erred in doling out stiffer sentences than were called for in sentencing guidelines.

Prosecutors said the decision last week is important because Anthony Zenone, who admitted to murder and bank robbery, had pleaded "conditionally" to some of the charges. That means his plea would not have been binding had the court ruled that the search was improper.

"What the court has said is that they got a fair trial, and they got the sentences they deserved for very violent crimes," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio. "None of the prosecutions could have gone forward without the search."

In the spring of 1996, the FBI was investigating several bank robberies around the Baltimore area, including one by two men who wore masks of presidents' faces apparently in an attempt to mimic bank robbers from the movie "Point Break." Acting on information provided from a bank surveillance camera, the FBI began to focus on the Zenones and searched the men's home on May 4 of that year.

Agents found two shotguns, a high-powered rifle, body armor, a smoke grenade and a Ronald Reagan mask during the search, according to court records.

Aron U. Raskas, an attorney representing Anthony Zenone, said yesterday that he believed the search was improper because a federal magistrate authorized it without having sufficient probable cause. That evidence linked the Zenones to not only the bank robberies, but a bizarre double-murder the previous year in a secluded cove at Loch Raven Reservoir. The killings received extensive publicity at the time for the mystery surrounding the motives.

Anthony Zenone, 32, admitted during his plea that he had killed Vincent Brian Young, 26, during an argument at the reservoir while he discussed the sale of a rifle with him. While he was shooting Young, a man who was fishing in the area, Vernon Arthur Smith, 46, heard the shots and went to the scene thinking someone needed help, prosecutors said.

Smith discovered the crime scene and was fatally bludgeoned with a rock, prosecutors said.

Investigators said Michael Zenone was a suspect in the killings, but was never indicted because prosecutors lacked evidence.

Anthony Zenone was sentenced to life in prison for the murders and a 1993 bank robbery in Arnold. Michael Zenone, who was convicted by a federal jury of robbing two banks in 1996 -- one in White Marsh and another in Towson -- is serving a 12-year sentence without possibility of parole.

Pub Date: 8/19/98

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