On the day former Whitman student Pat Lazear was scheduled to face trial for felony charges related to the armed robbery of a Smoothie King, Lazear pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit robbery.
Lazear pled guilty to the common-law misdemeanor in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Nov. 29, the day he was scheduled to face trial for felony charges of armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
Lazear is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, Dec. 15. The conspiracy to commit robbery charge carries a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment, but the terms of the plea agreement limit Lazear’s jail sentence to a maximum of 18 months.
Lazear is one of five former Whitman students charged in connection with the robbery of $463 from a Smoothie King at 7200 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda on March 3, 2006. According to the state’s version of the offense, Lazear provided codefendant Robert Warren with the replica BB-pistol that Warren used in the offense, and Lazear drove the getaway vehicle.
“I think that conspiracy reflects the nature of the crime he committed,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Tom DeGonia, who prosecuted the case. The conspiracy charge “holds him accountable; it admits his role.”
DeGonia would not speculate as to the sentence Lazear is likely to receive later this month. “I think you’ll have to stay tuned,” he said.
LAZEAR ENTERED his plea a week after his codefendant and former Whitman classmate Justin Schweiger was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to commit robbery. Schweiger is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 23, 2007; he faces up to 15 years in prison.
In October, Robert Warren, also a former Whitman classmate of Lazear’s, pleaded guilty to armed robbery and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with all but four months suspended; he will serve one month in jail and three months under house arrest.
Two other former Whitman students were arrested in May and charged with armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. One of them, Alexander Krouskas, is scheduled to be tried in January. The case of Thomas Ashley III was transferred to juvenile court.
“I’M PLEADING guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery,” Lazear said last Wednesday to Judge Katherine D. Savage, who later asked Lazear if he was pleading because he did in fact commit the offense.
“Yes,” Lazear said.
Lazear spoke in a clear voice and frequently referred to Judge Savage as “your honor” as Savage informed him of his rights as a defendant.
During Warren’s sentencing hearing and later as a witness in Schweiger’s trial, Warren testified that he, Lazear, Ashley, Schweiger and Krouskas discussed the robbery during a tech-ed class at Whitman. Warren said the plan was to “hold up” Krouskas, who worked as a clerk at Smoothie King. Warren testified that Lazear provided him with a replica BB-pistol, and that Lazear became upset with Warren when he and Krouskas had second thoughts about going through with the plan.
Paul Kemp, Lazear’s defense attorney, moved for several amendments to the state’s version of the incident that DeGonia read.
“The only one who wanted to commit this crime as such was [Robert] Warren,” Kemp said in amending the state’s version.
Kemp added that Warren pulled out the “toy gun” when a stranger [not Krouskas] walked out in Smoothie King, and that a jury found Schweiger not guilty of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
DeGonia did not oppose any of Kemp’s amendments.
LAST AUGUST, Montgomery County Public Schools transferred Lazear to Wheaton High School. (All of the codefendants were transferred to different schools.) At Wheaton, Lazear was permitted to play varsity football, and his teammates elected him captain before the season started.
Lazear was one of Whitman’s top athletes, and made the varsity football, wrestling and baseball teams as a freshman. He had more than 20 scholarship offers in the works from Division I-A collegiate football programs prior to his arrest.
Lazear remains on bond, which includes house arrest conditions he has been under since he was arrested last May. Under special conditions of the arrest, he was permitted to attend school, football practice and games, and several trips for football camp or recruiting visits. Kemp said that Lazear has been “perfect” under supervision, which DeGonia affirmed.
DeGonia said he does not intend to call any state’s witnesses at Lazear’s sentencing hearing. Kemp said he intends to call two or three witnesses, and otherwise to submit letters for the court’s consideration.