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Choplifter gets 90 days

Hagerstown man convicted of stealing meat from store

Hagerstown man convicted of stealing meat from store

December 07, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - Testimony during a jury trial Thursday centered around whether the bulges in a man's pants were packages of meat he stole from a local grocery store.

A Washington County Circuit Court jury deliberated for less than an hour before finding Darrell Stephan Wims, 46, of Hagerstown, guilty of a charge of theft less than $100, although no meat was recovered.

Circuit Judge John H. McDowell sentenced Wims to 90 days in jail, the maximum penalty for a conviction of that offense.

"This is a meat-in-the-pants case," Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil told the jury during his opening statement.

On April 14, around 10 p.m., Wims picked out meat from the case, walked to a remote part of the Food Lion at 761 E. Wilson Blvd., and stuffed the meat in his pants, Veil alleged.

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A store clerk noticed something unusual about Wims as he was buying a loaf of bread, Veil said.

"She sees the bulging pants," and called her manager to the front of the store, Veil told the jury.

"The lower part of his pants looked like they were filled," the clerk testified.

It looked like "something was (suspicious)," so she called her manager so he could write down the man's license plate number, she testified.

The manager, Christopher Reid, also testified Thursday.

He followed Wims to his car and took down his license plate number. The store's policy is not to search or confront customers, but the store had been having problems with shoplifting, Reid testified.

When he wrote down the license number, he and Wims had a confrontation, Reid testified.

"He said I was harassing him," and during the confrontation Wims directed a racial slur at him, Reid testified.

Reid estimated the value of the missing meat at $200 and said only the "high-dollar" meat was taken.

In a surveillance video shown by Hagerstown Police Detective Tammy Jurado, the "high-end" meat area was empty even before Wims was in the area.

Jurado's understanding was that store employees removed the high-end meet around 8 p.m. every night because of problems with theft, she testified.

Assistant Public Defender Charles Bailey said during his closing argument that the empty "high-end" meat area shows Reid lied about what meat was missing.

Wims took the stand in his own defense.

He was looking through the meat selection and saw some cube steaks that looked bad, so he went to talk to Reid, he testified. They disagreed over the meat, and Reid said something Wims took as a racial slur, Wims testified.

Wims left the bad meat with Reid, then went back to choose some lunch meat and bacon, he testified. Wims later left that meat with Reid because the two had a continuing disagreement as Wims made his way to the front of the store to check out, he testified.

Reid testified that those conversations never happened, and that he first saw Wims at the checkout near the front of the store.

During his closing argument, Bailey made references to Reid "shadowing, badgering" Wims.

Bailey also suggested that Reid knew Wims would complain about the racial slur the manager allegedly made to him, and attempted to cover that up by accusing Wims of theft.

Veil called that accusation "low" and said the case had nothing to do with race.

Wims testified that he had "not one piece" of meat in his pants.

He was financially secure and could have paid for groceries because of $196,000 awarded in April to his fiance in a wrongful death suit, Wims testified.

The judge called the crime "devious" and noted that this was Wims' fifth theft conviction.

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