A man convicted in 2004 in the holdup of a downtown Columbia restaurant has been denied a third attempt to have the ruling overturned.
Howard County Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney denied a motion by Derris Travale Moore, 26, to have his guilty plea reversed, according to the decision released last week.
Moore was charged with robbing Copeland's restaurant, across from The Mall in Columbia, on March 1, 2003. According to court documents, Moore and Nathan Thomas Hicks, now 27, entered Copeland's as employees were closing for the evening. Police said one grabbed a restaurant employee by the neck, shoved a handgun to the worker's face and ordered her to open the office. Morris and Hicks took more than $5,000 from the cash registers and safe and fled. They were arrested moments later by police near Lake Kittamaqundi.
Both Moore and Hicks pleaded guilty to robbery, assault and handgun charges. Howard County Circuit Court Judge James B. Dudley, now retired, sentenced Hicks to 15 years in prison. He sentenced Moore to 25 years in prison.
According to the appeal document submitted in Howard County Circuit Court, Moore alleged that he did not voluntarily agree to a guilty plea because he was not appropriately advised by his trial lawyer, Michael D. Montemarano, about the length of the sentence Dudley could impose.
"[Moore] alleges that the cumulative effect of these errors constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel because if not for the advice of [his attorney], [Moore] would have not entered into the plea" according to appeal document.
Montemarano defended his actions in a telephone interview with The Sun last week.
"I cannot agree with Mr. Moore's view that the plea was not knowing and [not] voluntary," he said. "But, I remain adamant in my belief that his sentence was extraordinarily unreasonable and unfair."
The recent decision is the third unsuccessful attempt by Morris to get his conviction reversed. Dudley upheld the decision in a Feb. 2004 hearing, and a three-judge panel unanimously agreed to affirm the decision in a Dec. 2004 appeal hearing.
"The court finds that while [Montemarano] gave [Moore] his own view as to the likelihood of sentencing, this does not amount to the ineffective assistance of counsel or an unknowing and involuntary plea," according to Sweeney's statement in the appeal document.
Assistant State's Attorney Lynn M. Marshall said was happy with Sweeney's decision.
"The state was pleased that the judge found the sentence was appropriate," she said.
Efforts to reach Moore's public defender, Margaret L. Lanier, were not successful.