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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.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 20th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
Hey that's my throat the article is talking about! I was one of the four robbed near the PR that night. I haven't thought about this in a while and did a search on the defendant (I easily recall his full name even now) and came across your blog post. I just want to say "thanks" for helping to find that d-bag guilty. Hopefully it wasn't a hard decision. I remember his lawyer asking about how much we drank that night at the PR and I wondered if his defense was going to be: "they were drunk". I guess it ended up that there really wasn't much of a defense. Oh well.

I personally had to go down to the police station on 2 occassions to look at photo lineups. I was disappointed the first time b/c neither guy was in there. The second time the defendant was in there. I picked him out in 1 second. The detective got really excited and high fived me. "We've got him for a bunch of stuff", he said. I had no doubts about the defendant. I'd run into him before near NCSU campus. He asked if I wanted to buy some coke. This happened during the day and near populated areas, and I basically ignored him.

After our trial we heard the defendant's laywer was released since he had been threatened by his own client. That was not a suprise. Shortly after all this happened I searched for Gabriel and found he was living at a correctional facility in Elizabeth City where he was amassing a nice run of infractions leading to more time being added to his sentence(s).

Anywho, all in all, things worked out as they should. I appreciate your being on the jury and doing the right thing!
Jun. 20th, 2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks
Well, hello there! How very, very interesting that you found my blog entry. I'm so grateful for your comment. It was actually a tough decision, but I was very glad we made it, because we didn't know anything about the slew of other charges that they had against him while we were making our decision.

I remember reading about those additional charges the next day in the paper, and I was so relieved that we'd made the decision we had.

I'm sorry you were put through that. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like, as I can't ever drive by that place without thinking about the incident, and it was over ten years ago and nothing even happened to me!

Take care of yourself! And thanks again for commenting.

Edited at 2012-06-20 06:09 pm (UTC)
May. 28th, 2013 10:29 am (UTC)
I was one of the people this individual attempted to rob. I remember this incident very well. I also remember being very upset that the News and Observer printed my full name and address in the newspaper, because, as far as I know, one of the men who attempted to rob me was never found. I don't know if I signed some sort of consent form without realizing it, but I always felt that the News and Observer exposed me to an unnecessary level of risk by printing my full name and address in the paper knowing that one of the armed robbers was still (and still is) at large. I don't know how my exact name and location is relevant in the context of the story. None of the other victims were explicitly and publicly identified.

I remember that as I was walking to Mitch's tavern, Gabriel and his accomplice approached me and asked for a lighter, or matches so that they could light their cigarettes. Then Gabriel tried to sell me drugs. I refused and continued walking. Gabriel then told me his mother was sick and that he needed money for a train ticket. He wanted $60.00 (which was more money than I even had). I refused to give him money, at which point, Gabriel tried to physically force me to stop walking by using his arm to lean into me. I remember becoming very anxious when Gabriel's accomplice walked behind me. Gabriel then said, "Give me your wallet, or I'm going to burn you." I was able to outrun the two of them at that point. I then ran to Western Lanes and called the police. I was surprised when I was later contacted and asked to identify the perpetrator. It was gratifying to know that Gabriel did not get away with his crimes, because I think he was a danger to others.

I too, still remember identifying the suspect in court. I remember being asked in court why I was walking to the bar and why I wasn't currently in college. I remembered thinking that walking to the bar was what I was supposed to do. Why should I drive to the bar when I can walk? I also remember wondering how me going to college or not was relevant to Gabriel's guilt, or innocence. (I have since graduated from college and served in the Air Force. In fact, I am currently deployed).

At any rate, I want to thank the jurors for finding a dangerous mugger guilty of his deliberate and dangerous crimes.

I am happy that he is not able to hurt and rob others any longer.
May. 28th, 2013 12:22 pm (UTC)
Hello, and thank you for your posting. As I said to one of your fellow victims, I'm sorry this happened to you! I'm wondering now if the four of you who participated in the trial were friends, became friends, and/or keep in touch.

Congratulations on completing your schooling, and thank you so much for your service to our country. My dad was a 30-year marine, 3 one-year tours in Vietnam, now retired. I grew up on Camp Lejeune, attending both middle school and high school there.

Again, thanks for your posting, and please take care of yourself!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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