Robbed of a memory…

~Wednesday~  This story in the news today, Raleigh bar patron robbed; suspect nabbed at NCSU, reminded me of another story in the news 10-and-a-half years ago.

The former reminded me of the latter due to the location—Player’s Retreat on Oberlin Road. The latter was the last time I served on a jury.

Paper: The News & Observer
Message: Convict gets 40-year term
Author: Dawn Wotapka
Date: November 29, 2001
Section: News
Page: B1


RALEIGH — Gabriel Roman Stallings, on trial for a series of armed robberies, turned to his mother Wednesday and whispered: “I ain’t going to get no time. … I didn’t do it.”

Twelve Wake County jurors disagreed. [ ← One of which would be me. Thank goodness I was not the foreman.]

After they deliberated for two hours, Stallings, 30, was convicted of four armed robberies and one attempted robbery. He was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison and ordered to pay his attorney, David Brannon, more than $2,000.

Stallings still faces charges –and much more prison time –in the so-called Good Samaritan robberies. Trials in those cases will take place today and later this week.

In testimony this week, four victims identified Stallings as one of the men who robbed them.

“Of course, they’re going to point me out,” Stallings said to his mother, Linda Copeland, 53, of Raleigh, seated behind him. “I was the only one in the courtroom.”

Preston Cochran Bounds, 21, an N.C. State University student, testified that Stallings and an unidentified man approached four men just after midnight May 26 as they left the Players Retreat bar off Hillsborough Street.

According to Bounds, Stallings asked if they were nervous and pulled up his shirt to show he didn’t have a weapon. The unidentified man then held a straight razor to NCSU student Thomas Stewart Lassiter’s throat, Bounds said. Stallings then ordered them to drop their wallets and run, Bounds said.

Matthew Lee Baskerville said the same pair tried to rob him a few minutes later as he walked near the International House of Pancakes on Hillsborough Street.

Police are still searching for the second man involved in both cases because he is the one, witnesses said, who held the knife.

Still, jurors decided Stallings should be punished as an armed robber.

“Both of them are just as guilty even though one of them had the knife,” Jeff Cruden, an assistant district attorney, told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday. “If you hunt with the pack, you’re responsible for the kill.”

Bounds said he wants the other man found but said he’s glad that Stallings will be off the streets.

“Stallings definitely seemed like he was the brains, the organizer of the operation,” he said.

The Good Samaritan cases were not combined into Wednesday’s trial because they are not similar enough, a judge decided. In a string of incidents near NCSU between March and June, a man approached young men and told them his car had broken down, his mother was ill or he had just lost his job. The man would lure the victims into a parking lot or have them drive him to a secluded area, then rob them, police said.

In all, Stallings, who did not provide an address, is charged with eight other armed robberies.

Three of those robberies were combined into one trial, which continues today. Although police and witnesses were present Wednesday afternoon, the trial was postponed after Stallings began beating the wall of the holding cell and threatened to assault guards and his attorney, Cruden said.

Ready to testify against Stallings is Jon Harrison, an 18-year-old student at Wake Technical Community College.

On June 10, Harrison said, a man approached him outside Pantana Bob’s bar on Hillsborough Street and said he needed a ride to retrieve jumper cables. When they arrived in a parking lot off New Bern Avenue, the man told Harrison to give him money. Harrison gave him the cash he had, about $3, and his $35 watch. The man also asked to look inside Harrison’s wallet and search the car.

“I let him,” he said. “I didn’t want any trouble.”

Harrison said he thinks Stallings, whom he glimpsed in the courtroom, is the person who robbed him. “He looks like the guy,” Harrison said. “But innocent until proven guilty.”

Stallings has prior convictions for common law robbery, possession of cocaine, felony breaking and entering and communicating threats, according to court records. If found guilty on all the pending robbery charges, Stallings could be sentenced to an additional 135 years in jail. It is unclear how many more trials there will be, Cruden said.

One, however, was enough to decide Stallings’ fate.

“That’s 40 right there,” he said as he was led out of court. “I already got life.”

Author: Dawn Wotapka
Section: News
Page: B1

Copyright 2001 by The News & Observer Pub. Co.

Leave a Comment