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Second trial begins for man accused of shooting during robbery

Anthony Caldwell was tried on same charges in September, but case ended in mistrial

Anthony Caldwell was tried on same charges in September, but case ended in mistrial

December 16, 2009|By BRIDGET DiCOSMO

HAGERSTOWN -- The second trial for a man charged in the Jan. 27 shooting of another man during an armed robbery in Smithsburg began Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court.

Anthony Caldwell, 25, formerly of 27 E. Lee St. in Hagerstown, is charged with attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, armed robbery, using a handgun in a felony violent crime, theft $500 plus, robbery, second-degree assault and wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun upon person.

Caldwell was tried on the same charges in September, but the case ended in a mistrial when a juror belatedly admitted familiarity with Caldwell's family.

Caldwell is accused of shooting Bruce Jones, 31, after he and Louis Geraldo Gonzalez, 27, of 82 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown, arranged to meet Jones under the premise of selling prescription painkillers to him, according to court records.

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Gonzalez, who was a co-defendent in the case and faced identical charges, entered an Alford plea in September to armed robbery. Under an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the state has enough evidence to gain a conviction.

Gonzalez, who testified against Caldwell during the first trial, was scheduled to testify against Caldwell again Wednesday, but once on the stand invoked his right against self-incrimination.

Assistant State's Attorney Viki Pauler asked Gonzalez if he understood that the state dropped the other charges against him in exchange for his cooperation in testifying against Caldwell. He answered "yes," but refused to give Pauler a reason for his silence.

Gonzalez, who is awaiting sentencing on the armed robbery charge, also faces a pending indictment accusing him of soliciting first-degree murder and intimidating a witness. The charges are related to allegations that Gonzalez attempted to have someone kill Jones

Jones testified Wednesday that he went with Gonzalez after 1 a.m. on Jan. 27 to a deserted part of Federal Lookout Road with $1,750 in his pocket to buy Oxycontin pills.

He testified that he intended to distribute the pills and that he trusted Gonzalez, whom he described as a family friend.

Once on Federal Lookout Road, Gonzalez stopped his vehicle near a house and told Jones to get out of the car, Jones testified. He said the next thing he saw was a dark figure running at him, arm extended and brandishing a sideways-pointed handgun.

Jones said the assailant wore a hooded sweat shirt and black ski mask concealing his face, and was of a "tall, thin build."

He testified that when the bullet's impact knocked him backward and to the ground, he thought he was going to die.

"I heard the gun go off, and I felt it, and it just burned," Jones said.

He testified that his cell phone, wallet, the $1,750 for the pills and an additional $200 to $300 were taken from his pocket when he was down.

Assistant Public Defender Charles Bailey tried to highlight discrepancies between previous testimony and statements given by Jones, including the amount of cash he carried that night.

In prior statements and testimony, Jones said he had about $400 in addition to the money to buy the pills, Bailey said.

Jones previously described the shooter as being about his own height of 6-foot-1, but on Wednesday said the man was taller, about 6-foot-4, Bailey said.

In response to Bailey's questions about his ability to recall prior statements, Jones said he was trying to remember as best he could.

"It was almost a year ago," he said.

During an interview with police, Gonzalez told deputies where they could find the ski mask he claimed Caldwell had worn during the shooting, Washington County Sheriff's Detective Greg Alton testified.

Investigators later found the mask and a knit ski cap in the glove box of a Lincoln in the lot of a Martinsburg hotel, where Gonzalez said it would be, Sheriff's Detective Kenny Barnhart testified.

During her opening statement, Pauler said DNA testing showed Caldwell had worn the mask.

Pauler told the jury she understood sympathizing with Jones might be difficult because he was trying to conduct a drug deal.

"No man deserves a bullet in his chest," she said.

Bailey argued during his opening statement that his client wasn't even at the crime scene.

"It's a weak circumstantial case, compounded by testimony from thugs with motives to lie," Bailey said.

The trial is scheduled to resume today at 9 a.m.

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