Baltimore 'dine and dasher' convicted again of skipping tab

A Baltimore man nicknamed the "Dine and Dasher" for skipping out on dozens of restaurant tabs — sometimes by faking seizures — was convicted again Wednesday in District Court.

Andrew Palmer, 44, was found guilty of skipping out on a $50 bill at the Kona Grill downtown on New Year's Day. Judge George M. Lipman sentenced Palmer to 90 days. According to the prosector, it was Palmer's 17th conviction on such a charge since 2007.

Palmer has been held at Central Booking since his arrest; court records show he has another case pending in Baltimore County — for allegedly faking a seizure to get out of paying at Mo's Seafood on Eastern Avenue on New Year's Eve.

Palmer was charged with theft under $100 for the Kona Grill incident. At the start of his hearing, Assistant State's Attorney Wesley Corning added a charge of theft under $1,000, arguing that the $50 bill was both less than $100 and less than $1,000, but that the latter carried a heavier penalty.

Prosecutors offered Palmer a year in jail if he pleaded guilty. Lipman offered him seven months. Palmer, who could be heard saying he did not want to be sentenced to the Division of Correction, opted for trial.

A manager from the Kona Grill, Michelle Werner, testified that Palmer was at the restaurant for four hours that day, but when it came time to pay, he disappeared into the women's bathroom. Werner said she asked him to come out of the bathroom and pay the bill.

"He said he didn't understand why it was so much, and said he didn't have enough to pay it," Werner said.

Palmer told the restaurant employees that he had the exact amount in his bank account and offered to retrieve the money and come back, but Werner said they declined because he had nothing they could hold as collateral.

"He tried to make a deal with us — we could tell him never to come back, and he'd never come back," Werner testified.

Palmer did not speak in his own defense, nor did his attorney offer a defense or explanation.

Lipman rejected the prosecution's attempt to stick Palmer with the heavier charge of theft under $1,000, saying theft under $100 was appropriate given the amount taken.

That drew an exasperated response from Corning, who blurted out, "He has done this 1,000 times!"

Palmer received a year in jail in February 2013 after being convicted of theft under $1,000, then was arrested again in July and released on his own recognizance, and arrested again in August and then in October. He got 18 months in jail in 2010 after prosecutors consolidated six cases, each where he faked a seizure to get out of the bill, into one theft scheme charge.

Carol Johnson, a public defender who represented Palmer, declined to comment after the hearing.

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