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Man accused of being getaway driver testifies

Darnell Edward Stewart says he didn't have anything to do with armed robbery

August 06, 2010|By DAN DEARTH

The man accused of being the getaway driver in a March armed robbery of the M&T Bank at 930 Dual Highway took the stand Friday to testify on his own behalf.

Darnell Edward Stewart, 50, of 9207 Eldon Drive in Clinton, Md., told the jury that he didn't have anything to do with the robbery, saying he was urinating near a wall several hundred feet behind the bank when he heard sirens.

"That's when I saw a man run past me," Stewart said.

Stewart's testimony wrapped up the second day of his trial in Washington County Circuit Court. The jury will return Monday to hear closing arguments before deliberating.

Stewart is charged with two counts each of robbery and armed robbery, four counts of first-degree assault, and one count each of conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and felony handgun use in a violent crime. Circuit Judge Daniel P. Dwyer dropped 10 other charges after defense attorney Ross Hecht successfully argued they weren't pertinent to the case.

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Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Michael said a rational jury would find Stewart guilty because he was waiting by his pickup truck when his brother, Leroy Robinson, 59, of Fort Washington, Md., was arrested at the same time in the same area for robbing the bank. Robinson was sentenced to 30 years in prison during a trial last month.

Also charged was Keith Darnell Wilson, 38, of Washington, D.C.

Stewart said Wilson was the man who ran by him as he was urinating by the wall. Police arrested Wilson and Stewart next to Stewart's pickup truck as it was parked on Pangborn Boulevard facing north toward Manor Drive behind Weis Market.

Wilson is charged with 43 counts in connection with the crime. According to court records, he is scheduled to enter a plea Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court.

Michael argued that it was more than a coincidence that Stewart and Robinson -- two brothers who live close to 70 miles away from Hagerstown -- just happened to be in the same place at the time of the robbery.

Stewart said on the witness stand that he was in Hagerstown to help a friend move furniture from a house into a storage unit on the day of the robbery. That friend, Greg Hamms, and his wife, Carlietha Hamms, testified that Stewart was telling the truth.

"I wouldn't lie for him," said Greg Hamms, whom Stewart said he was to meet in the Weis parking lot. Stewart said he left the lot to find a place to urinate and parked his truck on Pangborn Boulevard.

Stewart's wife, Karen, testified that her husband had no motive to rob the bank because they just received a settlement of more than $400,000 after their son was killed in a vehicle accident.

Robinson, who was escorted from prison to testify, told jurors that he decided to rob the bank because he needed the money.

Robinson admitted that he lied to police when they questioned him right after the robbery, but later pleaded guilty after having a discussion with his wife. He said he didn't see Stewart on the day of the robbery until they ran into each other while they were being held by police.

In his cross examination, Michael suggested that if Robinson lied to police, he more than likely would lie to the court to save his brother's skin.

"How do we know you're telling us the truth today when you lied previously?" Michael said.

"I can't even answer that," Robinson said.

On the morning of March 8, two masked men wearing parkas and ski masks entered the bank and herded employees into a small room before making off with $3,650, according to police and witness testimony over the two days of Stewart's trial.

The men fled down a roadway between the M&T and Chevy Chase banks, and headed north toward Pangborn Boulevard behind the Weis Market.

Robinson was arrested in front of a large wall behind Weis, while Wilson was taken into custody on the passenger's side of Stewart's pickup. Stewart was arrested near the driver's side of the vehicle.

During a search, police found parkas and loaded pistols near Robinson and Wilson. The money, which was partially marked with red ink from an exploding dye pack, was recovered nearby.

All three men were captured without shots being fired.

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