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Victim testifies in attempted murder trial

September 28, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- The man who was shot in the chest during a Smithsburg robbery disguised as a drug deal testified Monday that after he was shot, he thought he was going to die.

The trial began Monday in Washington County Circuit Court for Anthony Caldwell, who is accused of shooting Bruce Jones, 30, of Hagerstown.

Caldwell, 25, formerly of 27 E. Lee St. in Hagerstown, faces counts of attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault, as well as other charges of robbery and conspiracy.

A co-defendant, Louis Gerald Gonzalez, 27, faced the same charges. Gonzalez on Thursday entered an Alford plea to armed robbery. All of the other charges were dropped.

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Under an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the state has enough evidence to gain a conviction.

Gonzalez is expected to testify Tuesday during Caldwell's trial. Twelve jurors and two alternates were chosen early Monday afternoon.

During her opening statement Monday afternoon, Assistant State's Attorney Viki Pauler described for the jury what investigators believe happened during the early hours of Jan. 27, when Jones was shot.

Jones believed he had arranged to buy prescription drugs. Caldwell was selling the drugs, and Gonzalez arranged the deal, Pauler told the jury.

Gonzalez drove Jones to the spot where the deal was to happen, and Jones got out of the door on the vehicle's passenger side. Someone came toward him, holding a gun up, and within three feet of Jones, pulled the trigger, Pauler said.

Pauler told the jury she knew it might be difficult to have sympathy for Jones.

"He's a drug dealer," she said.

But the laws of Maryland say you can't shoot someone in the chest, she said.

Gonzalez, too, is a criminal, but they should believe him because what he will tell the jury is what he told investigators during an interview the day the shooting happened, Pauler said.

During his opening statement, Assistant Public Defender Charles Bailey focused on reminding the jury about the standard for conviction. If there are two possible interpretations of what happened, one in which the defendant is guilty and one in which he is innocent, the jury must adopt the interpretation in which he is innocent, Bailey said.

Jones testified Monday afternoon that he and Gonzalez used to hang out about 10 years ago and met again shortly before the shooting. He and Gonzalez were meeting on the night of Jan. 26 to get some pain pills, Jones testified.

Gonzalez was going to get the pills from someone else and sell them to him, Jones testified. Someone else drove Jones to the AC&T in Smithsburg, where they met up with Gonzalez. Jones said he later got in Gonzalez's car.

Gonzalez pulled into a driveway and both men stepped out of the car.

Someone came running toward him yelling, "Get down, get down,'" Jones testified.

"Before I could do anything, I got shot," he said.

The shooter took the $1,750 in drug money Jones had in an envelope and his wallet, which had $300 or $400 in it, Jones said.

When Pauler asked him what was going through his mind, Jones said, "I thought I was going to die."

Jones was taken to Washington County Hospital and later to Shock Trauma in Baltimore, where he underwent several surgeries.

He now doesn't have feeling in three fingers, most of his hand and his right forearm, Jones testified.

Dr. Marc Kross, surgeon in chief of Washington County Hospital's trauma division, called the injury Jones received "kind of bizarre" during his testimony Monday.

The bullet entered at a spot in the center of Jones' chest, traversed across Jones' chest and lodged in Jones' armpit, Kross testified.

Under questioning by Pauler, Kross testified that Jones had been in quite a bit of distress when the doctor first saw him.

Assistant Public Defender Brian Hutchison tried to reveal a discrepancy between that statement and a statement in hospital records that said Jones was in no distress.

Kross denied those were his records and said he "vehemently" disagreed with the statement that Jones was not in distress.

"If you're implying he was shot in the chest and it was just a walk in the park for him, that's inaccurate," Kross said.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Investigator Greg Alton, the primary investigator in the case, was the last witness to testify Monday.

During an interview, Gonzalez said Caldwell shot Jones, according to Alton.

Gonzalez initially identified Caldwell as "Anthony Smith," but after he was shown a picture of Caldwell, he admitted Caldwell was the shooter, Alton testified.

Gonzalez told investigators he initially lied about the name because he was scared, Alton testified.

Gonzalez said, "You don't know him man. You don't know his family ... I'm a dead man. They will kill my family," Alton testified.

Caldwell left the scene of the shooting in Gonzalez's car, Alton testified.

Investigators found black masks in Gonzalez's car, which Gonzalez identified as the masks Caldwell wore during the shooting, Alton testified.

Under questioning by Bailey, Alton said that, in the initial interview, Jones did not mention the shooter having a mask. Investigators also never found the area where Jones was actually shot, Alton said.

Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell said the trial will resume today at 9 a.m.

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