Elkridge man sentenced to 25 years in robbery

Copeland's in Columbia was held up at gunpoint

January 18, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A 22-year-old Elkridge man who was convicted of robbing a Columbia restaurant at gunpoint last year as employees closed for the night was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison.

Saying that Derris T. Moore "never has had any redeeming qualities, zero," Howard Circuit Judge James B. Dudley imposed consecutive sentences for armed robbery, felony assault and handgun use in the March 1 robbery of Copeland's restaurant in Town Center, across from The Mall in Columbia.

"Mr. Moore has engaged in an unending life of crime which has now ... escalated to crimes of violence," Dudley said.

Moore had been convicted in a series of misdemeanor crimes as an adult and was on probation for marijuana possession at the time of the Copeland's robbery. His juvenile record includes a delinquency finding for robbery, lawyers said.

Moore, of the 6500 block of Grainger Court, and Nathan T. Hicks, 24, of the 5400 block of Eliots Oak Road in Columbia, each pleaded guilty to multiple charges last fall for their roles in the crime, which Copeland's employees said left them anxious and fearful.

Dudley sentenced Hicks last month to 15 years - plus 10 years for an unrelated armed robbery, at the Ellicott City Hampton Inn.

The 10-year disparity in the sentences for the Copeland's robbery bothered Moore's attorney, Michael Montemarano, who said he believed his client "deserved less of a sentence than Mr. Hicks."

"I think this sentence fundamentally is unfair," he said after the hearing.

State sentencing guidelines recommended a term of 10 to 15 years for Moore. "And that's not to short sell in any way, shape or form the seriousness of this crime or its impact on the victims," Montemarano said.

But prosecutor Lynn Marshall, who offered both men the same plea deal - an agreement to cap her request at 19 to 26 years in prison - said the sentence was "appropriate considering the nature of the crime and [Moore's] background."

During the robbery, Hicks and Moore grabbed one employee by the neck and pressed a gun into her cheek and pointed guns at a manager and a third employee, according to a statement of the case. The men took money and left the restaurant, prosecutors said.

The two were arrested at a footbridge after an officer, who heard a description of the robbers, saw them running on a bike path along Lake Kittamaqundi.

Police found more than $5,000 in Hicks' jacket pockets and a loaded gun under the footbridge, prosecutors said.

Yesterday, Eldon Rowe, who left his job as a manager of the restaurant, said he still doesn't feel safe.

"I can't go throughout the week without seeing the gun in my face," he said.

Montemarano, who asked Dudley to impose a 10-year term, said his client has taken responsibility for his role but argued that Moore was only following Hicks' lead.

Moore's "formative years were pathetic," the lawyer said. Moore was homeless and lived in laundry rooms in his late teens and suffers from mental health problems, Montemarano said.

"He was simply clay to be molded by Mr. Hicks," he said.

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