Man pleads guilty in robbery

September 24, 1997


Staff Writer

James Eugene Ahalt Jr. said Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court he wished he could apologize in person to the woman he robbed last June.

But the victim wasn't present at Ahalt's Tuesday hearing, at which he pleaded guilty to one count of robbery.

"I'm really sorry," said Ahalt, 23. "I need treatment for drugs and alcohol."

Judge John H. McDowell sentenced Ahalt to 18 months in the Washington County Detention Center and authorized treatment in the Jail Substance Abuse Program (JSAP).

"You're at the crossroads of your life," McDowell told the Hagerstown man.

Deputy Washington County State's Attorney Charles Strong said the June 1 robbery occurred at 10:14 a.m. in a parking lot off the first block of South Potomac Street.


A woman was walking on her way to work when she encountered Ahalt and said "good morning," Strong said.

Ahalt apparently said "good morning," then grabbed her purse. The woman spun around and chased Ahalt as he ran toward a nearby church, Strong said.

Several witnesses also chased Ahalt, catching up with him at the rear of St. John's Lutheran Church, where they held him until police arrived, Strong said.

"He kept saying he didn't do anything wrong, all the while holding onto the woman's purse," Strong said.

Some of the witnesses said they thought Ahalt was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or both that morning.

He had a prior record of several offenses, including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and destruction of property, that seemed to have been related to alcohol.

Defense attorney Mary Riley told the judge that no weapon was used, no threats were made and the victim wasn't injured. And there was no loss - she got her purse back.

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