Rearrested suspect decries `vengeful prosecution'

Wills says he won case when officials violated his right to speedy trial

February 10, 1999|By Caitlin Francke and Scott Higham | Caitlin Francke and Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

Christopher Wills, the man freed by a Baltimore judge because his trial on carjacking and armed robbery charges languished too long, denounced his rearrest on federal charges stemming from the same crime yesterday, calling it a "vengeful prosecution."

In a telephone interview from the city jail, Wills said he was cleared of the state charges three months ago because prosecutors and judges violated his right to a "speedy trial" within Maryland's 180-day deadline.

"When I [win] because you violated my rights, don't try to persecute me unfairly," Wills said. "The federal government had three years if they wanted to try me. Then, because an article was printed about me, a warrant was issued.

"How many people have ever been charged federally, as well as by the state, for robbing the Super Pride?" he asked.

Wills was arrested Friday night at his Oxon Hill home, where federal agents found him hiding behind a closet wall.

The new charges were filed after The Sun published an article Thursday detailing the dismissal of his case in Baltimore Circuit Court because of repeated trial delays.

Wills is charged with violating the so-called Hobbs Act, which prohibits interference with interstate commerce.

The April 1996 robbery of the Super Pride on East Northern Parkway constitutes a federal crime because food and other products are shipped into Maryland from Pennsylvania, federal prosecutors say.

Co-defendant sought

FBI agents are searching for Wills' co-defendant, Kevin Cox, who also is charged with violating the Hobbs Act. If convicted, both men could face a maximum of 20 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

Federal agents declined to discuss Wills' statements yesterday.

"We're not going to say anything," FBI agent Peter A. Gulotta Jr. said.

Federal prosecutors asked a judge Monday to hold Wills without bail. A hearing is scheduled this afternoon to determine whether to set bail and allow him to be released before his trial.

In his first public comments about the case yesterday, Wills, 32, said he is innocent of the crimes committed three years ago, and he disavowed a confession detectives say he provided after his arrest.

Wills, who was shot by a police officer, said he was heavily medicated when interrogated by detectives nine days after his arrest. He said he told them what they wanted to hear so he would receive his pain pills.

Police declined to comment because the case is pending in federal court.

A native of Washington, Wills said his troubles with the law began long ago. He said he was sent to a school for juvenile delinquents in Pennsylvania, where he showed promise as a student. He also said he excelled in sports and was offered a college football scholarship -- which he said he regrets turning down.

Instead, he returned home from Pennsylvania and worked in the cafeteria of Georgetown University. Later, he was behind bars again. He pleaded guilty to armed robbery in Prince George's County in 1989 and was paroled months before the Super Pride robbery.

Amateur lawyer

While in prison, Wills said, he often read law journals. He became a "jail-house lawyer" and largely represented himself during the Super Pride case. After his case was dismissed, he went to court to help represent a defendant he had met in jail.

"Law is not very hard," Wills said yesterday. "When you're in jail, you can [study] it at a leisurely pace."

Pub Date: 2/10/99

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