Bank Robbery Suspect Competent To Stand Trial - Southern Maryland Headline News

Bank Robbery Suspect Competent To Stand Trial

By Guy Leonard, County Times

LEONARDTOWN, Md.—A county Circuit Court judge has deemed that a defendant in a four-year-old bank robbery case can now stand trial.

Cornelius Leroy Chase, 47, has been charged with numerous counts in connection with the armed robbery of Cedar Point Federal Credit Union in Leonardtown, including armed robbery, first-degree assault and the use of a handgun in the commission of a felony.

Chase, according to court documents, has convictions for robbery, theft, assault with intent to rob and assault in St. Mary’s County dating back to 1996.

He was convicted of robbery in Calvert County in 2006 as well as second-degree assault in Anne Arundel County in 2005.

In presiding over his competency hearing, Judge C. Clarke Raley said in his review of the case file and all the competency reports from the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, he has never seen any indication that Chase was not able to fully understand the gravity of his situation or stand trial.

Chase, who remained mostly unresponsive during his hearing Dec. 12, declined to testify on his own behalf.

“This is a case for the books,” Judge Raley said in open court. “[Chase]… is perfectly competent and perfectly responsible.”

A “very clever individual,” Judge Raley said, Chase has “the skills to figure out how the criminal justice system works and how the people at [the psychiatric facility where Chase was examined] work.”

During court proceedings, it was made known that Chase may choose to dismiss his current counsel, Public Defender John Getz, for private counsel.

After Judge Raley informed the court and Chase that he had the absolute right to represent himself in court, even though he was advised to retain counsel, his lack of counsel on the day of the trial would not stop the proceedings of a case that has dragged on more than four years.

Judge Raley, known for sharing humorous stories from his legal experiences on the bench, told Chase a story of a man who had been charged with a crime, but who seemingly never went to trial because of his ability to stall the system.

“He was a constant source of irritation,” Judge Raley said of the unidentified man.

He continued by saying the man finally wrote a letter to the court demanding his case be heard by a judge with an intelligence quotient greater than 70.

“To which I coolly replied to him: ‘We don’t have anyone like that in this jurisdiction. You’re stuck with me,’” Judge Raley said. “You’re stuck with me Mr. Chase.”

Judge Raley left the trial date for Chase open to negotiation between the state and the defense, but intimated that the case had been left untried for too long.

He said there would be no continuances.

“It’s going to trial on that date,” Judge Raley said. “Whether the lawyers are prepared or not, I don’t care.”

According to charging documents, on Aug. 21, 2004, Chase, along with another masked accomplice, allegedly robbed the credit union located on Point Lookout Road in Leonardtown by exiting a nearby cornfield and forcing employees at gunpoint to hand over $262,000 in cash.

Police used canine units to track the suspects through the cornfields to Potato Hill Road; officers found in the cornfield nearest the bank a car-sized swath that could have been used to observe the bank without suspects being seen, according to charging documents.

Police found $10,000 in a money brick in the cornfield on the trail of the suspects.

Police later arrested Chase after a tip from a Charles County sheriff who had contact with Chase.

He said Chase wanted to buy a used car he had for sale for $12,000, charging documents state, and had put down a down payment of $2,500 in $50 dollar bills, some of which were in sequential order.

The sheriff called BCI detectives and told them of the contact, and they began to investigate, charging documents state.

A search of Chase’s home, vehicle and the motel room he was using in early September of 2004 turned up more than $60,000 in cash, charging documents state.

Charging documents further allege that Chase used more than $20,000 to pay for two automobiles in the days after the robbery.

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