Myers before federal jury

Conspiracy trial tied to holdup in Wilde Lake, others

Howard County

January 29, 2002|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

Almost two years after an armed robbery case against him collapsed in state court, Armistead D. Myers went on trial again yesterday, charged this time with federal conspiracy in a string of Howard County holdups that included a grocery store robbery in which he was suspected of brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle.

Myers, 27, won an acquittal at the state level when a Howard County judge said prosecutors had failed to support the testimony of the main witness to put Myers at the scene of the robbery in January 1999. The trial that opened yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore also is expected to turn on the reliability of the government's witnesses.

Defense attorney Michael D. Montemarano told jurors that nothing in the government's case links Myers to the robbery conspiracy or the holdup of the Giant Food store at the Wilde Lake Village Center in Columbia, except the testimony of two admitted criminals who are cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for lighter sentences.

In his opening statement, Montemarano called the witnesses "two individuals whose testimony, for lack of a better word, has been bought and paid for in the most valuable coin any of us know: time."

But Harvey E. Eisenberg, an assistant U.S. attorney, told jurors that the government witnesses can be trusted to tell the truth, and he said they would prove the case.

"It's not really a whodunit because they are going to tell you whodunit: Armistead Myers," Eisenberg said.

Jurors were not told yesterday about the armed robbery, assault and other charges that Myers faced in state court. Those charges were thrown out when Howard Circuit Judge Lenore R. Gelfman ruled during a jury trial in May 2000 that state prosecutors had failed to support the testimony of their main witness, Angela M. Watkins, who had testified under a grant of immunity.

Myers could not be retried for the same crime, but investigators used the same incident to bring a new case against him in federal court.

The federal conspiracy charge involves robberies or attempted robberies at 11 businesses, mostly in Howard County, between December 1997 and February 1999.

He also faces a federal weapons charge linked to the Giant Food robbery, which could carry a life sentence. Authorities charged that Myers wielded the assault rifle during the 83-second robbery.

Watkins and two other people tied to the crimes, Duane E. Curtis and Mike "Mikey" Brown, have pleaded guilty in Howard County to state charges that were revived after federal authorities stepped in to prosecute Myers. All three are awaiting sentencing in state court. Curtis and Brown are expected to be the key prosecution witnesses in Myers' federal trial.

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