A 26-year-old Columbia man was convicted yesterday of armed robbery in the holdup of a Jessup restaurant last year.
Eddie T. Dotson could receive 20 years in prison for armed robbery, robbery and second-degree assault in the Oct. 3, 1998, crime. The 12-member jury acquitted Dotson of charges of conspiring to commit armed robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. Sentencing is scheduled Feb. 4.
"I'm very pleased and satisfied by the jury's verdict," said Assistant State's Attorney Lara C. Weathersbee. "I think they made the right decision."
Police say the robber showed up at Avanti Restaurant about 10 p.m. that Saturday night wearing a dark sweat shirt, sunglasses and holding a silver air pistol.
After entering Avanti's kitchen, the robber ordered everyone to get on the floor and asked for the restaurant's manager, Delores Farnella. He then ordered Farnella to give him money from the restaurant's safe. Farnella, who also owns Avanti, turned over about $5,000.
"He was very nervous," Farnella testified Tuesday. "He seemed very agitated."
The robber then fled, jumped into a waiting car and was driven away by an accomplice, Weathersbee said.
A restaurant employee called police during the robbery on her cellular phone, and an officer began tailing the car, leading to a high-speed chase.
The car stopped near Route 175 and U.S. 1, where Dotson bailed out and scampered into the woods, "leaving a trail of Avanti's property," Weathersbee said.
Police also found the air pistol and eventually matched a partial handprint on the weapon to Dotson.
Four hours after the bailout, a Howard County police officer stopped and arrested Dotson as he walked along Route 175.
Dotson's lawyer, Samuel Truette of the public defender's office, argued that Dotson "did not go into that restaurant" and the state's case had holes.
Though Dotson matched the general description of the robber, there were several differences, Truette said. Dotson had a slight beard and mustache, but a witness said the robber was cleanshaven, Truette said.
Truette also questioned why police officers never brought Dotson to the restaurant to be seen by witnesses. Weathersbee said the police don't always do that.