As the hour of his sentencing drew near, he scuffed into the courtroom with baby-blue, all-star, high-top basketball sneakers on his feet and manacles on his hands.

He had turned 18 on the same day a grand jury in Montgomery County had indicted him on a charge of armed robbery, for pulling out a knife, holding it up to a 72-year-old woman and taking a few dollars from her purse. It was money he needed, he now told the judge, because his father had cut off his allowance.

His father, once a defendant in one of the most famous trials in Maryland history, was not among the onlookers in court this day. He was off in the city at work in a bookstore only blocks from the White House, dreaming his writer's dream of finishing a screenplay by summertime.

But there had been an hour, long ago, when he too had stood before a Montgomery judge, wearing the same fearful and defiant expression as his son would later, a look that did not falter even when the judge told him he was to die in the gas chamber for a rape conviction.

"What did the boy get?" asked the father now, in a voice accustomed to hardship and suffering.

"Ten years," came the reply.

Pain rose up in the man's face and swirled through his brown eyes. It was a father's pain, bubbling up from a sense of failure and grief that the lessons of his own life had been lost on his son, that he was powerless to change the errant headlong course of a boy he loved.

The story of James V. Giles, 39, and his 18-year-old son, Troy, has an extra dimension that lends it an uncommon sense of tradegy.

If anyone could have warned a black youngster growing up in Montgomery County of the consequences of crime and the preciousness of freedom, it was James Giles, who spent six years behind bars and was once three weeks away from the gas chamber.

Nineteen years ago, Giles was one of three young black men around whom swirled one of the most controversial cases in Maryland history -- a case that to many people symbolized the racial injustices of the early 1960s when the civil rights movement was in its first stages.

The circumstances of the incident that began the case are still somewhat unclear. Giles, 19, his brother John, then 21, and 26-year-old Joseph Johnson strolled out of the woods of rural Spencerville one hot night in July in 1961. They had been fishing in the nearby Patuxent River. They came upon a 21-year-old white man parked in a lover's lane with a 16-year-old girl.

Car windows were smashed, the white youth punched, and the girl claimed later that she'd been raped.

The trio eventually was arrested and charged with rape.

The Giles brothers were tried in Montgomery County Circuit Court in front of an all-white jury that deliberated just an hour before returning a guilty verdict. Judge James H. Pugh, denouncing the brothers' "passionate desires," sentenced them to die in the gas chamber. Johnson was convicted in a separate trial and also sentenced to death.

The "Giles-Johnson Case" became the case for a group of some 70 independent citizens who formed a defense committee, raised money, wrote letters and worked to gain clemency for the youths imprisoned on death row. Scores of editorials appeared in area newspapers. New evidence was uncovered that the state had suppressed facts in the case.

The appeals made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ordered the case reopened. The Gileses won a new trial and, when the state could not produce the girl, they were freed after spending six years in jail.

Johnson was granted a pardon by then-Maryland governor Spiro T. Agnew.

John Giles was shot to death in a fracas on a street in Baltimore in 1971.

In the nearly 13 years that James Giles has been free, he has bounced around in a variety of jobs -- pumping gas, working in a bookstore, writing for underground newspapers. He was a coauthor of his own story, "An American Rape," which he hopes now to turn into a screenplay.

Today his pleasures are commonplace -- his family, a whiskey after work, the sense of liberty. "Whenever I get depressed," he said recently, "I think back to when my mobility was restricted to a six-by-nine-foot cell on death row."

But there is a new anguish in his life for which freedom is no balm. His oldest son James, 19, was convicted in July 1978 of armed robberty and is serving a three-year term in Hagerstown. And now comes Troy -- 10 years armed robbery.

"I still don't know what happened between us," Giles says sadly. "I just don't know."

Troy was six when his father walked out of jail in 1967.

He was born the year Giles was sentenced to death and had lived with his mother Alda who divorced Giles and remarried Ira Thompson. The family moved three times, settling finally in a house on Adams Drive in Wheaton.

Troy's real father, Giles, dropped in for visits every month or two, more frequently in the summer. They would talk, go to basketball games, or don swim trunks at the Wheaton High School pool to see who could glide underwater the longest.

"Troy usually won," Giles said. "He had stamina."

He had athletic prowess, too. His father once watched him make a long touchdown run up the middle when he played halfback at Newport Middle School. He pitched baseball.

But it was out on the playground basketball courts, driving toward the basket or launching long shots that flew cleanly through the chain nets, that he came into his own. He was only 5' 10" but he could jump and grab the rim with his hand, and when he was on a shooting streak, he couldn't miss.

Troy was a sophomore at Wheaton High, performing passable but undistinguished classroom work, when his life was torn again. His mother, the person he was closest to, collapsed in the bathroom. He helped carry her to the car. She died a few days later, on April 4, 1978. Bereft, her son wept openly.

"She was my best friend," he said recently, sitting behind a plexiglas barrier at the Montgomery County Detention Center. "What I miss the most is the way she believed in me. She always said 'Troy, keep up your education. Don't get in with bad people.' That was the last time I cried -- when she died. I don't think I'll ever cry again."

After the funeral, Troy asked his father if he could move into the apartment in Silver Spring where Giles lived with his wife of seven years, Patricia, and his third and youngest son, Brendon, age 6. His father said sure.

Troy felt shy at first, out of place in the new setting. But he set up his stereo and hung posters of Earth Wind and Fire on his wall. And that summer he got a job as a bus boy at a fast food restaurant.

But things began to go awry. That summer Troy was picked up as on juvenile charges of breaking and entering. He said he had been looking for pocket money to pay for pizza after basketball, or records, or tickets to big concerts at the Capital Centre.

"I tried to teach him to respect himself," Giles lamented. "And how to survive. What I tried to give him were real things like food, and allowance, respect for grades. I was always straight with him. I said get an education and be yourself -- in a socially acceptable way. If you've got to cut somebody, be a neurosurgeon."

As electric doors clanged shut and loudspeakers pronounced all inmates accounted for, Troy looked around the visiting room at his stark quarters and said, "My father always warned me against this. I listened, but as I got out on the street it wasn't on my mind."

Troy enrolled at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in the fall of 1978, but his grades fell because he skipped too many classes.

"I tried to instill a sense of academic excellence," Giles said. "He wanted to go to college. I said, 'You take care of the grades, I'll take care of the money." I don't know what happened. I'm baffled."

After B-CC let out for the summer, Troy spent most of his mornings babysitting his younger brother, Brendon. Each afternoon around 3 o'clock, he would go over to the Woodside Recreational Center, where he would play basketball until 9.

Afterwards a bunch of friends and players would repair to a nearby fast foot palace for pizza and soda. Troy's father had been giving him $20 a week, but as the summer wore on and his son failed to find a job, he cut off the allowance.

"I didn't think it would help him find a job," he explained.

"I tried," Troy said. "I filled out so many applications but there wasn't anything."

One afternoon in August all he could think about was money. He grabbed an eight-inch knife from the kitchen where his stepmother fixed him chili and sandwiches and skipped out of the house.

He encountered Silver Spring resident Hattie Spencer near her house. He brandished the knife. She had $25. She was 81, and according to prosecutors, she was so terrorized by the attack that she doesn't go outside anymore.

"I'm not a violent person," Troy cried out in an interview. "If the lady had screamed I would have turned around and run. I think a lot about how it happened. It shouldn't have happened. I realize it now."

But the day after he robbed Spencer he had no such regrets. He held up a 35-year-old woman for $60. One week later, he took $3 at knife-point from a woman who was 72.

State prosecutors said that when Troy was arrested he offered an alibi that he had been at the Hilton Hotel in Ocean City. The alibi cracked, however, and he pleaded guilty.

His first night in jail after his arrest he stayed awake all night, unable to sleep. "I'll never forget that night," he said. He thought about the things he used to talk to his father about, how to rise above circumstances, how to be philosophical. He could hear his father's voice stressing education and the importance of not falling into the very pit he had stumbled into.

On Feb. 20 Troy appeared before Montgomery judge Richard B. Latham, who ignored the recommendation for an 18-month term in the pre-sentencing report and sentenced the 18-year-old convicted armed robber to "five and five running wild" -- courtroom jargon for two consecutive terms adding up to 10 years in the Hagerstown penitentiary.

Troy's head dropped, but he did not cry.

His father could not keep him from becoming a convicted felon. But he may help him survive life without freedom.

Troy had never really read his father's book until he was looking at the world from inside the Montgomery County Detention Center. From that vantage his father's words took on new meaning.

"I want to go to college," Troy said. "This is a hard blow, a hard blow, but it'll be all right. It keeps me going to think about what my father went through. If he can make it, I can too. After all, I'm his son."