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Trial begins for man charged with robbing local craft store

January 16, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Although Robin E. Lewis is charged with armed robbery - using a toy gun in April 2002 to hold up a craft store where he used to work - the case against him lacks one important factor, his attorney said Thursday as his trial began in Washington County Circuit Court.

"Not one piece of physical evidence links Robin Lewis to anything that happened inside the Michaels" craft store, his attorney, Eric Reed, told jury members during his opening statement. Reed said police did not turn up any fingerprints, hair samples or the like linking Lewis to the crime scene.

Lewis is charged with armed robbery, robbery, theft of more than $500, first- and second-degree assault, false imprisonment and reckless endangerment.

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In May, Lewis allegedly turned up in his former roommate's attic before being charged with stealing his sport utility vehicle. Lewis was apprehended in late July in Rehoboth Beach, Del., where authorities alleged he had assumed his former roommate's identity.

Reed told the jury Thursday the case boils down to one question.

"Do you believe, or do you not believe Aaron Smith," who told police nine days after the alleged April 2, 2002, robbery that his former roommate, Lewis, 36, of Smithsburg, robbed the store.

Smith also told police a Notre Dame baseball cap found at the store was his own, Reed said.

The jury of four men and eight women began hearing Lewis' case Thursday morning after the defense and prosecution presented their opening statements before Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley.

Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Robert Veil said that Lewis was unemployed and behind on rent on April 2 when Smith last saw him. Lewis had told his roommate at about 7 p.m. he was going to borrow money from a friend.

Veil contended that at 9:30 p.m. that night, Lewis was the man who entered the Michaels crafts store, and was waiting in an inner office when the store manager entered.

Store Manager Patrick Albright noticed a fluorescent light tube had been removed from a ceiling fixture, and he smelled cigarette smoke, Veil said.

Veil said a man who's face was partially concealed ordered Albright to get down. There was a struggle, Veil said, and what Albright first thought was a gun fell to the floor and made a sound like plastic. Albright then felt something sharp at his back that he thought was a knife, Veil said.

Veil said the intruder bound Albright's feet, hands and face with pre-cut pieces of duct tape, took the store proceeds and ran out the back door, passing another store employee on the way out.

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