Getaway driver found guilty on diner robbery charges
WOODSTOCK — More than week after postponing his verdict, Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp on Friday found a Woodstock woman guilty on three charges after determining she was the getaway driver in the attempted robbery of Ben’s Diner in January.
Hupp delivered his verdict after hearing testimony on May 25 and closing arguments Friday from Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola and defense attorney Margarita Wood. Wood represented the defendant, Andrea Scalf.
Scalf, 43, was identified by two witnesses during the bench trial as the person who came up with the idea to rob Ben’s Diner; she had worked there in the past, and her teenage daughter was working there at the time of the attempted robbery.
Scalf’s daughter was the first witness to testify for the prosecution during the May 25 bench trial. She said that three men walked into the diner wearing dark clothing with their faces covered, and one man pointed a gun in her face and demanded money. Once she told them that the money was in the office, he held the gun to her back as she showed two of the men where it was – one man stayed by the door as lookout. Since the office door was locked, the two men tried kicking it down. When they were unsuccessful, they all fled the diner.
Scalf was crying, with her face in her hands, during her daughter’s account of what happened that night. Scalf then watched as her daughter stepped down from the witness stand and walked out of the courtroom, avoiding her mother’s gaze the entire time.
Leonard “Spoon” Garris – one of the men indicted on charges from the attempted robbery – testified during the bench trial that he was the lookout during the robbery. He also testified that Raymond Washington – another man indicted on charges from the same incident – was the one holding the gun and leading the robbery. Scalf and Washington devised the plan together, Garris said, adding that they believed the diner would be an “easy target” because of her knowledge of the business.
Garris, who was dating Scalf at the time of the robbery, also said that Scalf was the designated driver because she was the only one of the four with a driver’s license. All four people indicted on charges relating to the robbery were living together off-and-on around the time the robbery was planned and executed.
Andrew Shoemaker, the third man indicted in the incident, also testified during the bench trial and corroborated much of what Garris said. Shoemaker testified that his role in the robbery was mostly to assist Washington. There were discrepancies, however, in how they said Washington acquired Scalf’s gun for use during the robbery, and if the gun was brandished or not during the incident.
Margarita Wood, Scalf’s attorney, zeroed in on these discrepancies during the bench trial, also noting that both had told authorities when they were first arrested that Scalf had not been involved at all. Wood also said that the two were only testifying against Scalf because they were facing a long list of charges and would now get “consideration” from the commonwealth during future court proceedings or plea agreements.
Garris told the court that he originally did not want Scalf to get into any trouble because of her two children, but that he now wanted to clarify for the court what had actually happened to separate the truth from the stories he had heard being thrown around.
Shoemaker explained that he had originally denied any involvement with the robbery because he was high on Xanax, and that his initial interview with authorities probably should not have taken place because of how intoxicated he was.
“[Shoemaker] will lie to not get caught, and he will lie again to get consideration from the commonwealth,” Wood said during her closing argument on Friday.
Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola argued in his closing statement that Shoemaker’s time in jail and away from drugs had rehabilitated him, and that while his testimony in court differed from his interviews with the authorities, his testimonies during the preliminary hearing and during the trial were consistent. Campola also noted that the differences in Garris’ and Shoemaker’s stories were “slight,” and that these types of things happen when people testify truthfully.
“Those stories aren’t hatched, they aren’t rehearsed,” Campola said during his closing argument.
When Scalf took the stand during the bench trial, she initially denied any involvement with the robbery. She said that the three men told her that they were going to Sheetz and had told her to stop in the area behind Ben’s Diner before exiting her Jeep; Scalf said that she thought they were there to get drugs, and did not question them at all when they returned to the Jeep.
Once Campola introduced a letter Scalf had written to her youngest daughter from jail, Scalf’s face turned red. In the letter, Scalf had said that she probably would have been able to stop the robbery if she had not been “so high.”
“I didn’t mean to be involved,” Scalf sobbed when Campola asked twice about her involvement in the robbery.
Campola noted during his closing argument that Scalf was the only witness who changed her testimony during the court proceedings, and argued that she knew all along what was going on.
“Her credibility is shot,” Campola said several times during his closing argument.
Hupp retired to his chambers for almost 30 minutes before delivering a final verdict. He said that since the bench trial he had reviewed his notes thoroughly, adding more notes as he went through them, and needed time after the closing arguments to make a decision.
When Hupp returned to the court, he reviewed what the arguments were and what the main question of this case had been: What involvement did Scalf have? He said that her statement in the letter that she would have stopped the robbery if she wasn’t high implies “foreknowledge” of the robbery. Hupp also determined that Garris and Shoemaker gave credible testimony during the trial that was consistent during court hearings.
“It’s clear they did not get together to get their stories straight, so to speak,” Hupp said before delivering his verdict.
Scalf was found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery, being an accessory to a robbery, and child endangerment. She was also facing a charge of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, but because of the discrepancies about the gun in witness testimony, Hupp explained, he found her not guilty on that charge.
Campola brought up a Virginia case where the defendant was found guilty on the gun charge, and Hupp told Campola that he could file a motion to dismiss the not guilty verdict before sentencing to argue the judge’s decision.
Scalf was not as emotional on Friday as she had been during the trial. After the verdict was read, Scalf was asking Wood questions before being taken away by the deputies.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4 in Shenandoah County Circuit Court. Scalf is also facing separate drug charges that are scheduled for trial on June 19. If convicted on the robbery charges, Scalf faces up to life imprisonment.