Krouskas Also to Be Tried as Adult

Krouskas Also to Be Tried as Adult

At least four former Whitman students scheduled for adult trials in connection with armed robbery of Bethesda Smoothie King.

Alexander Krouskas is the fourth former Walt Whitman High School student who will be tried as an adult for the armed robbery of a Smoothie King in Bethesda, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Joseph A. Dugan Jr. ruled last week.

“It was a very close case,” Dugan said in denying Krouskas’ motion to be tried as a juvenile. Krouskas had no prior involvement in the juvenile justice system, and Dugan said he did not consider Krouskas a “ringleader” in the alleged offense.

However, Dugan cited Krouskas’ age — 17 at the time — and the nature of the offense as factors that weighed against trying him as a juvenile.

“It was a reckless act, it was a dangerous act,” Dugan said. “He clearly was raised to know much better than that.”

Judge Dugan’s decision came in spite of recommendations from juvenile authorities that Krouskas be tried as a juvenile.

Krouskas’ trial is set for January 2007 on charges of armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.

KROUSKAS IS ONE of five former Walt Whitman High School students charged with armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery of a Smoothie King on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda last March.

Four of the students — Krouskas, Patrick Lazear, Justin Schweiger and Robert Warren — will be tried as adults. All were 17-year-old Whitman juniors last March. They have all since been transferred to different schools; Krouskas now attends Albert Einstein High School in Kensington.

Two weeks earlier, Dugan denied motions filed by Lazear and Schweiger to be tried as juveniles. Last week, Warren’s attorney David Driscoll withdrew a similar motion, and Dugan set his trial for January 2007 as well.

“I think it would have been a difficult motion to prevail on,” Driscoll said.

A similar motion filed by codefendant Thomas Ashley, originally scheduled for to be heard by Dugan last Thursday, was continued until an undetermined date.

Krouskas was working at the Smoothie King at the time of the robbery. According to police charging documents, the five codefendants planned the robbery while at school in Whitman earlier in the day. Police allege that Warren was the one who entered the store and robbed it, while Lazear, Schweiger, Ashley and Warren’s girlfriend waited in a car at Bethesda Elementary School and awaited Warren’s return.

According to testimony in the hearing, Krouskas warned Warren that there were security cameras at Smoothie King and called the codefendants after the robbery. Court proceedings also suggested that Krouskas asked managers at Smoothie King for a copy of the video, a factor Dugan said weighed against allowing Krouskas to be tried as a juvenile.

SEVERAL WITNESSES AT Krouskas’ hearing described him as honest, hardworking and mild-mannered. Two of those who testified knew Krouskas through the community of the Hellenic-American Academy, a now-defunct school in Potomac.

Faith Van Anakkeren, who knew Krouskas from the academy, said she kept in touch with the Krouskas family after the school closed. “I think he’s a very caring, honest and truthful kid. … He’s come from a very caring family,” Van Anakkeren said.

Students at the academy “were somewhat naive and probably not very street-smart,” Van Anakkeren said. These sentiments were echoed by several other witnesses who said Krouskas was not a leader.

Krouskas’ mother, Zoy Calomiris Krouskas, testified that Alex’s friends from the Hellenic-American Academy were his best friends. As for the former Whitman students, “They’re acquaintances; they’re not his inner circle.”

Andrea Banks, a case management specialist with Maryland’s Department of Juvenile Services, recommended that Krouskas be tried as a juvenile and that he be enrolled in one of three residential programs. Banks said her decision was based on the fact that he has never been in the juvenile system before, and because he has kidney problems and attention deficit disorder, according to testimony at the hearing.

Assistant State’s Attorney Tom DeGonia deferred to Judge Dugan to determine whether he felt Krouskas’ alleged involvement was a lack of maturity or a lack of accountability. “Obviously the court has a very good command of the facts,” DeGonia said. While DeGonia said that Krouskas may have provided information to his codefendants in the outset, “he’s clearly in a different role” from the other codefendants.

“It’s interesting,” Dugan said. “Everyone has a different assessment in this case.”

KROUSKAS’ DEFENSE LAWYER, Mariana Cordier, said Krouskas was not a leader in the alleged offense, and was a low risk for continued delinquency.

“He’s not a rich kid, a brat, handed the world on a platter,” Cordier said. “His family’s taken this … extremely seriously, and so has he.”

The judge said it was a difficult decision in Krouskas’ case, adding that this was not necessarily the case with other codefendants. The fact that he had never been in the juvenile justice system before was a significant factor in his favor, Dugan said.

But Dugan questioned whether Krouskas was a passive bystander.

“I don’t believe Alex has been truthful with everybody,” Dugan said.

In reference to the state’s claim that Krouskas asked for a copy of the surveillance video of the robbery, Judge Dugan questioned whether these were the actions of somebody who was ashamed of his involvement.

“I believe that he thought it was pretty cool,” Dugan said, adding that it weighed heavily against sending Krouskas’ case to juvenile court.