Convicted diner robber asks to withdraw guilty plea

Raymond Washington

WOODSTOCK — A convicted co-conspirator in the January attempted robbery of Ben’s Diner asked on Wednesday to withdraw the guilty pleas he entered in June.

Raymond Lamar Washington, 28, was identified as the leader of the robbery plot during the trial of Andrea Scalf. She was found guilty on June 2 of being the getaway driver. Andrew Bradley Shoemaker and Leonard “Spoon” Garris, the other two charged in the robbery plot, identified Scalf and Washington as the plotters who devised the initial plan. They said Washington was the one who held the gun and tried to kick in the door to the diner’s back room.

On June 7, Washington pleaded guilty without a plea agreement to attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, use of a firearm in commission of a felony, wearing a mask in a public place, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. His attorney, Charles Ramsey, filed a motion Wednesday to withdraw those pleas during what was previously set as a sentencing hearing.

Sentencing was originally set for Aug. 30, but Ramsey asked to postpone the hearing so he could review information in the pre-sentence investigation report; he obtained another postponement on Sept. 20 to receive mitigating evidence from the Roanoke Department of Social Services about Washington’s childhood.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Ramsey said he spoke to Washington the night before at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail where Washington expressed concerns about his previously-entered pleas. Based on information in the report about his childhood, and after discussing it with Washington, Ramsey said that Washington now wishes to plead not guilty by reasons of insanity, and requested an evaluation of Washington’s sanity at the time of the offense.

Also, Ramsey said, his client felt undue pressure to plead guilty because of “extensive media coverage” of the case, and noted that they are considering requesting a change of venue for a future trial because Washington would not be able to get a fair and impartial jury in Shenandoah County. Ramsey also noted the “racial makeup” of the county would make it difficult for Washington, an African-American, to be tried by an unbiased jury without a change in location.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola objected to the motion, noting that the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled against Robert Good — a New Market man who pleaded guilty by Alford in 2015 to child sex charges, maintaining his innocence with the plea — who tried to withdraw his pleas moments before being sentenced. Campola argued that there has to be a significant change in circumstances since the guilty pleas were entered for the court to allow them to be withdrawn.

Ramsey maintained that Washington should be allowed to withdraw his plea so as to be given an opportunity to prepare a “substantive defense.”

Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp said that he was not inclined to grant Ramsey’s motion based on his argument during Wednesday’s hearing, but decided to allow Ramsey to file a more detailed motion with references to applicable cases, and allow the prosecution to respond.

A hearing  was set for Dec. 6 in Shenandoah Circuit Court. If Hupp denies the motion, Washington is set to be sentenced at that hearing.

Garris has a hearing set for Oct. 25. Shoemaker pleaded guilty in August to his role in the incident, among other charges, and is set to be sentenced on Nov. 3. Scalf is set to be sentenced on Dec. 1.