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Man sentenced to 20 years in robberies, assault

April 14, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Although Stephen Henry Baptiste Jr. told a Washington County Circuit Court judge Tuesday that he's "not a bad person," the judge sentenced him to 20 years in state prison for two robberies in which victims were injured.

Baptiste, 18, formerly of 39 Broadway in Hagerstown, pleaded guilty Tuesday to robbery and first-degree assault in connection with an Oct. 30, 2002, robbery at Roxy Liquors at 287 Frederick St. He admitted to slicing a clerk's ear, beating him with a gun and tying him up.

He entered an Alford plea to a charge of robbery with a deadly weapon in a separate Dec. 11, 2002, incident, in which a girl's throat was cut after she handed over $15 on demand in an alley behind 43 Randolph Ave.

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Under an Alford plea, a defendant maintains his innocence but acknowledges the prosecution has sufficient evidence to convict.

Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III said Tuesday that sufficient evidence was presented to corroborate that Baptiste robbed the girl and he accepted Baptiste's guilty pleas to the other two charges.

Baptiste is being held at Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Md., following an Oct. 6 conviction on unrelated charges of robbery and use of handgun in the commission of a felony, his attorney Richard Winters, of Frederick, Md., said.

Winters said the Washington County Office of the Public Defender asked him to represent Baptiste.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Michael said Baptiste's last trial "was a stepping-stone to getting these matters resolved." He said Baptiste was on a "serious crime spree" and posed a "serious threat."

Boone sentenced Baptiste to three concurrent sentences, to be served concurrently with the time Baptiste is already serving, he said.

Boone sentenced him to 15 years on the robbery charge, a 20-year concurrent sentence on the first-degree assault charge and a 20-year concurrent sentence on the charge of robbery with a deadly weapon.

Howard Fuller, 66, the Roxy Liquors clerk who was assaulted, said it cost $3,000 for doctors to repair his ear after the incident.

After the hearing, Fuller said that during the robbery he was taken into the back room of the liquor store and beaten and tied with a cord and his ear was sliced. He said after he had been hit for the fourth or fifth time across his head with the gun he thought he was going to be killed and pretended to be unconscious.

"I feel that the charge against Mr. Baptiste should have been attempted murder," he said during the hearing.

Baptiste, when given a chance to speak, stretched his arms out as if to yawn, and asked Boone for his help.

"I'm not going to justify ... I just want to tell you ... I've done some bad things but I'm not a bad person," he said.

Boone told Baptiste, "There is no excuse for what you did to Mr. Fuller. Good people don't go around slicing people up."

Fuller said after the hearing that he was not satisfied with Baptiste's sentence.

"Concurrent sentences, that's like getting three freebies," he said.

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