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Home  |  News  |  Man sought after skipping robbery trial

Man sought after skipping robbery trial
Friday, February 15, 2013

 
ORANGEBURG, SC - A Denmark man tried in his absence gave the strongest testimony against himself.

A jury spent less than 30 minutes deciding the 21-year-old Willow Street man was guilty of attempted strong-arm robbery in connection with an April 2012 incident near Springfield.

Circuit Court Judge Eugene C. Griffith Jr. ordered the sentence against Daron Johnny Hugee sealed until he can be located and brought back to court. A warrant will be issued for his arrest.

Hugee was charged along with two others, Ishaq Dawood Gina, 18, also of Denmark, and Akeem Washington, 20, of Springfield.

Gina pleaded guilty to the same charge in November and was sentenced under the Youthful Offender’s Act not to exceed five years.

The case against Washington is still pending. However, he took the stand during Thursday’s trial, telling of an impromptu plan to rob a liquor store about a mile outside of Springfield.

Prior to opening the case, Griffith ruled the trial could proceed without the defendant. The judge reasoned that Hugee’s presence in court on Monday and again Tuesday demonstrated he was aware of the schedule.

Washington took the stand, saying that on April 25 of last year he was with Hugee and Gina in Springfield when they decided to drive to Aiken. That route took them past Surrey Race Road liquor store.

Gina came up with a plan.

“I asked him (Gina) why we turned around by the liquor store,” Washington said. “I asked him again, why we turning around? He said, ‘To rob the liquor store.’”

Washington said Hugee and Gina then covered their faces, got out of the car and ran to the front door of the business.

Emmett Smith testified he was in his liquor store around 3:30 p.m. that day playing cards when he heard someone try the door right beside him. He looked through a gap in the two front doors and saw two males, one wearing a red bandana over his face and the other a blue bandana.

“I stood up and I can’t say what I said out of my mouth,” he said. “But they left.”

Smith then called law enforcement after getting a description of the car.

“Could you tell how many people were in the car?” prosecutor Tommy Scott said.

“Three.”

The store owner told the court he normally kept the door locked and customers could only come in after he unlocked it.

On cross examination, defense attorney Mark Wise questioned how the state could determine the intentions of the men attempting to get into the business.

“When they came to the store, they said, ‘This is a robbery?’” Wise asked.

“No,” Smith said.

“They said, ‘Open the door, old man?’”

“They ain’t say nothing.”

But one piece of evidence that impacted the case was Hugee’s own words, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t present.

Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Investigator Marty Carrigg introduced the Denmark man’s statement to authorities the day he was taken into custody.

Hugee reportedly told officers a story similar to Washington’s, including Gina ordering the car stopped in front of the liquor store.

“Who’s idea was it to hit the liquor store?” Carrigg asked Hugee in his written statement.

“Ishaq.”

“Is there anything else you want to tell me about the incident?”

“No, except I’m sorry.”

Wise and co-defense counselor Jill Ullman put up no witnesses for their defense. They asked the court to dismiss the charge, saying the state hadn’t proven the elements of an attempted strong-arm robbery.

Meantime, Scott said in his closing arguments that if Smith hadn’t had the presence of mind to run the would-be robbers off and get a car description, they might have gotten away clean.

“That, ladies and gentlemen, is heroism,” he said. “But for those actions, we don’t know who is responsible.”


Source: http://thetandd.com/news/local/man-sought-after-skipping-robbery-trial/article_da19bfa2-7735-11e2-81ad-001a4bcf887a.html

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