Pa. man sentenced to three years for Westminster armed robberies

A Pennsylvania man was sentenced to serve two consecutive 18-month sentences in the Carroll County Detention Center for a series of robberies, some armed, he committed in Westminster.

Christopher Adam Johnson, 27, of Hanover, pleaded not guilty but agreed not to challenge the state's version of the facts to two counts of armed robbery and one count of robbery.


Retired Judge Lawrence Daniels handed down two consecutive 20-year sentences for the armed robberies with all but 18 months suspended in each case for a total incarceration time of three years.

During sentencing, Daniels noted he made it clear that he imposed sentences far below the state's recommendation because of his belief that the community owes Johnson help because of his years of military service.

"You've used up all of the courtesy and goodwill you might have engendered by being a U.S. Marine and serving your country," Daniels said, adding that he would not hesitate to sentence Johnson to the suspended 37 years of prison time if he violates his probation.

"You have post-traumatic stress disorder. That's unfortunate," Daniels said. "But that doesn't give you the right to inflict post-traumatic stress disorder on your victims."

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Ted Eyler requested that Johnson receive a sentence of 20 years with eight years suspended, leaving 12 years for Johnson to serve in the Division of Corrections.

Johnson was arrested May 16 after investigators from the Maryland State Police Westminster barrack identified him as a suspect in the May 8 armed robbery of Vocelli Pizza in Westminster, according to the statement of facts read into the record by Eyler.

While Johnson was in custody, police learned that he was also potentially responsible for the May 3 robbery of the High's store on Railroad Avenue May 3 and the May 6 armed robbery of Naill's Hair & Body Salon on John Street, according to the statement of facts.

While being questioned by police, Johnson admitted to committing the robberies and said that he stole to support his drug habit, according to the statement of facts.

Defense attorney William Welch III, a panel attorney appointed to represent Johnson, argued in mitigation that Johnson is an Iraq war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction.

Johnson entered the U.S. Marine Corps at 17 years old, Welch said, and during one of his two tours in Iraq he saw a fellow Marine step on an improvised explosive device and die from his wounds.

"At some point, he is going to come back to the community, and what the community's goal should be is to help him fix himself," Welch said. "The best thing to do and the right thing to do in this case is to hold him accountable … and order him to pursue treatment for his PTSD."

Welch said that he spoke with experts and learned that post-traumatic stress disorder and drug use can be independent of each other or could be related, and only with proper counseling can Johnson understand his addiction.

Johnson's mother wrote a mitigation letter to the judge which stressed that the family attempted to get Johnson help, but "the drugs kept coming back with a vengeance."

Daniels said Johnson's mother did not have significant insight into her son's addiction because using drugs was a choice that he made.


"The drugs didn't come after him with a vengeance," he said. "It's more that he went back to the drugs with a vengeance."

Welch argued that the Carroll County Detention Center has good programs for treatment and if Johnson could be sentenced to serve local time, he has an opportunity to take advantage of those services.

Sentences longer than 18 months must be served at a state facility and cannot be served at the detention center.

Upon his release, Johnson will be on five years of supervised probation and required to abstain from all illegal substances and alcohol. He was also ordered to pay restitution to Vocelli Pizza and High's and ordered not to return to any of the locations of the robberies.

"I'm giving you a break here," Daniels said. "Take advantage of it."

Reach staff writer Heather Cobun at 410-857-7898 or email