All-Met Linebacker Said To Be Robbery Ringleader
Friday, October 20, 2006
All-Met linebacker Pat Lazear played a prominent role in the planning and execution of an armed robbery in March that led to the arrest of four Whitman High School football players and another student, one of the players testified yesterday.
At his sentencing hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Robert Warren testified that Lazear acted as the driver and provided him with the clothes he wore and the inoperable gun he used in the robbery of the Smoothie King store in Bethesda. Warren said the idea for the robbery came from Lazear and classmate Alex Krouskas, an employee at the store.
"They were like, 'Hey do you guys want to do this?' " Warren testified. "It wasn't my idea. . . . It was Pat's and Alex's."
Warren testified that when Krouskas expressed his misgivings about the plan, which also allegedly included football players Justin Schweiger and Tommy Ashley, Lazear insisted they go through with it.
"Alex was having second thoughts that he didn't want to do this and Pat got [angry] at him," Warren said. "He got mad at Alex. He was like: 'Naw, man, it's happening, man. We talked about it earlier.' . . . Pat walked away."
Lazear's attorney, Paul Kemp, declined to comment on Warren's testimony because he had not read the court transcript.
Warren pleaded guilty to felony armed robbery after prosecutors dropped a conspiracy charge and agreed to ask for a reduced sentence far shorter than the charge's maximum jail time of 20 years. Judge Paul H. Weinstein sentenced Warren to five years in jail but suspended all but 30 days, after which Warren will be required to spend 90 days in home detention. Warren also must keep a diary during his incarceration and lecture high school students about what he has learned from the incident.
The crime stunned many in the upper-middle-class community around Whitman. Lazear is considered one of the area's top college football prospects, having drawn interest from national powers such as Ohio State and Alabama. Yet he risked a likely scholarship in a robbery that netted only $463.
"Why were they engaged in this type of activity?" Assistant State's Attorney Tom DeGonia asked the court. "They don't need the money. They clearly don't want the notoriety. The state is left with the explanation that these are young men who feel for whatever reason they can get away with this. That's the most disturbing aspect of this."
In describing the robbery for the court, Warren said he initially had been led to believe all of his alleged accomplices -- except Krouskas, whom they thought would be working alone -- would enter the store. But as Lazear drove toward the store, Warren learned that only one person would go in. Lazear and Ashley ruled themselves out because of their easily distinguishable physical appearances, Warren said. Schweiger volunteered but Warren quickly took his place, Warren said.
"I made a very dumb decision to go in," Warren testified. "I saw Alex after I saw [the other employee]. I pointed the gun. I got the money. I put it in a bag and I ran to the car. Then we went to Uno's [a pizza restaurant] afterwards."
During yesterday's proceedings, DeGonia displayed the gun, which Warren testified he got from Lazear and has been described in hearings as a replica. DeGonia said that it certainly was imposing, especially given the threatening manner in which Warren pointed it at Krouskas and another employee who was unaware of the planned robbery.