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Longtime criminal gets 21 years in robbery


Freddie D. Widener, a longtime criminal whose family terrorized northern Baltimore County in the 1970s, has been sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in federal prison for robbing a federal credit union in Middle River last year.

Widener, 35, of the 15400 block of York Road in Sparks, cried in U.S. District Court yesterday as he recounted a life of heroin abuse and jail terms. He said his crimes were prompted by an unhappy home life and abuse from his late father, whom he described as "a jealous and violent man."

"He never once called me 'Son,' never touched me, never said, 'I love you,' " Widener told Judge Joseph C. Howard.

"I have asked God to give me the wisdom and courage . . . the will to carry on," the defendant said.

Howard told Widener that he has "been in almost constant contact with the law all of your adult life," and that "your decisions to commit crimes and use drugs were quite within your control."

The judge also said the defendant "has exhibited what I perceive to be a lack of genuine remorse."

Howard sentenced Widener under a federal career offender statute and strict guidelines which mandate a no-parole prison term, rejecting arguments from defense attorneys Stephen M. Schenning and Gerald A. Kroop that the defendant did not qualify for the harsh treatment.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph L. Evans countered that Widener's criminal record, which dates to 1974, when he was 18 years old, "is far more extensive" than the three prior convictions which prompted the government to request the career-offender sentence in this case.

Widener, whose family was once dubbed the county's "First Family of Crime" in press accounts, has a criminal record that includes 19 arrests and at least six convictions in Maryland and Pennsylvania on such charges as drug possession, armed robbery, attempted murder, drug possession and carnal knowledge.

Widener was sentenced yesterday for his convictions last Dec. 19 on conspiracy, robbery and assault charges for the May 21, 1990, holdup of the Martin Employees Federal Credit Union.

Co-defendant Stephen Lee Duncan, who drove the getaway vehicle, pleaded guilty to a bank robbery charge in the case and testified against Widener at his jury trial. He said the take from the robbery was $4,200, and that Widener gave him only $600 for his role in it.

Duncan is serving a three-year, no-parole prison term.

Prosecutors said that when the FBI arrested Widener at his home last June and told him he would be charged with bank robbery, Widener replied, "Which one?"

FBI agents also found a cache of ski masks in his basement that were similar in style and color to the one he wore during the credit union holdup.

Schenning said yesterday that the weapon Widener used in the Martin robbery was an unloaded BB pistol.

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