Pair sentenced for roles in Columbia robbery

Terms are part of deal for criminals who aided inquiry into other case

Regional

February 28, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Two people were sentenced to prison yesterday for their roles in the January 1999 robbery of the Wilde Lake Giant, a crime committed with an AK-47 assault rifle.

The state sentences for Duane E. Curtis, 25, and Angela Watkins, 31, were handed down a month after the federal conviction of Armistead D. Myers for a string of robberies and robbery attempts in Maryland - including the holdup of the Giant grocery store. They also were part of plea arrangements that required both to cooperate with federal authorities investigating and trying the Myers case.

At his sentencing April 26, Myers, who was convicted of conspiracy and weapons charges, could receive a minimum of 24 1/2 years without parole in federal prison.

Because of Curtis' information, "The government was able to clear and solve and assist the victims of a dozen robberies," Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey E. Eisenberg told Howard Circuit Judge Diane O. Leasure before sentencing. "That is not small doings."

The pleas also salvaged the Giant robbery case, which was in jeopardy after Howard Circuit Judge Lenore R. Gelfman acquitted Myers of state charges in May 2000, saying local prosecutors had not offered enough evidence to independently support the testimony of an immunized co-conspirator - Watkins.

Federal prosecutors stepped in after the acquittal and expanded the Giant case to include about a dozen commercial robberies and robbery attempts between December 1997 through February 1999 - most in Howard County and all linked to Myers. Watkins was stripped of her immunity after investigators determined that she had lied on the stand, officials said yesterday.

Watkins, who once worked at the Wilde Lake Giant store, testified during Myers' state trial that her role had been only to case the supermarket, while she also had driven the get-away car, prosecutors said. In the incident Jan. 12, 1999, Myers brandished an assault rifle while Curtis took about $3,000 in a robbery that lasted less than a minute and a half, according to court documents.

Watkins and Curtis pleaded guilty in April in Howard County Circuit Court to their roles in the Giant robbery - Watkins to a conspiracy charge, Curtis to armed robbery. Curtis testified at Myers' trial. Watkins did not.

Leasure sentenced Watkins to 10 years with all but seven years suspended and five years of probation, noting the seriousness of the case and Watkins' role. As part of a binding plea agreement, Leasure sentenced Curtis to an eight-year, 301-day prison term and gave him credit for time served dating to his incarceration Oct. 7, 1999.

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