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Trial in Halloween assault case postponed because of reluctant witness

April 04, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

The trial of a Hagerstown man accused of pulling a gun during a Halloween party was postponed Monday in Washington County Circuit Court after the alleged victim said during a pretrial hearing that he would not testify.

Circuit Judge Daniel P. Dwyer postponed the trial of Robert Joseph Walker to May 16 and cited the 15-year-old boy for direct civil contempt. The boy was called to the stand before the trial was to begin, and he said he would not testify but did not give Dwyer a reason, Assistant State’s Attorney Christopher McCormack said afterward.

Dwyer ordered the boy to be detained briefly, and a short time later he was returned to a courtroom, McCormack said.

Assistant Public Defender Loren Villa told Dwyer there was no statutory authority to detain the boy on the contempt citation.

“There is a difference between a victim and a snitch,” Dwyer told the boy. “A snitch is a person ... who rats out their fellow criminals,” not the victim in a crime, he advised the reluctant witness.

“I don’t know why you are refusing to testify,” Dwyer said before turning the boy over to his mother.

Walker, 22, of 404 N. Prospect St., was charged with first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, carrying a handgun and being a felon in possession of a firearm in the Oct. 29, 2010, incident, according to the statement of charges filed by Hagerstown Police.

Police went to Murph Avenue shortly after 11 p.m. for a report of an assault with a handgun, the charging document said. The alleged victim and his sister told officers a man threatened him with a gun at a party at the Frederick Manor community center, the document said.

The boy told police a man approached him and asked if he was a member of a gang known as Young Fly Things, the charging document said. The man referred to a disturbance at Fairgrounds Park, pulled a handgun and put it to the boy’s cheek, the document said.

The man then left, but the boy encountered him again in Blooms Alley, where the man pointed the gun at him again, the document said.

The boy’s sister told police she was inside the community center and heard there was a person outside with a gun, the charging document said. The sister did not see the man point the gun at her brother, but saw him with the weapon, the document said.

The sister was shown a photo array, but she did not identify the man, the charging document said. On Nov. 4, police showed another photo array to the boy and his sister, and both identified Walker, the document said.

“I’d like to point out that my client has been detained since Halloween,” Assistant Public Defender Charles Bailey told Dwyer, who reduced Walker’s bond from $350,000 to personal recognizance. But Walker remained in custody on a parole violation triggered by the charges filed in the Oct. 29 incident, Bailey said.

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