A Hyattsville man apologized Friday to the Silver Spring family he helped rob at gunpoint last year as a Montgomery County judge sentenced him to 30 years in jail for armed robbery and other crimes.
Of the three men arrested for the Jan. 29, 2011, home invasion and robbery, only 21-year-old Maurice L. Jones has pleaded guilty to the crime and accepted responsibility, said Joseph C. McKenzie, Jones' defense attorney. McKenzie also asked Judge Mary Beth McCormick to consider Jones' infant son and the threats made against his family when he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case.
“He wants to do the right thing, but he wants you to know that he's risking his life and his family's lives to do it," McKenzie said.
McKenzie reminded McCormick of a previous agreement reached with the state in which Assistant State's Attorneys Eric Nee and Marybeth Ayers agreed to recommend Jones only serve a 7-year sentence as long as he cooperated with police and pleaded guilty. McKenzie asked the judge to limit herself to a 14-year sentence.
Nee argued that, while an agreement was discussed, Jones forfeited the terms when he ultimately refused to help police. While police did arrest two of Jones’ co-defendants, 21-year-old Elliott Baumgardner and 52-year-old Phillip O. Young, both of Hyattsville, Jones’ refusal to cooperate has kept investigators from apprehending the remaining three men still at large after the robbery, Nee said.
"The defendant was given a chance and he turned his back on the state," Nee said. "We believe the defendant in this case should be treated exactly the same as Mr. Baumgardner."
Jones was one of six men who entered the Silver Spring home of the Gomez family dressed in reflective vests and ski masks, claiming to be Montgomery County police officers serving an arrest warrant on Juan Gomez Jr. The men, who were armed with a handgun, used zip ties to tie up Juan Gomez Jr.’s father and mother, Juan Gomez Sr. and Anna Gomez, as well as Monique Anderson, the mother of Gomez Jr.’s child, court documents state.
Both Jones and Baumgardner were charged with four counts each of robbery with a dangerous weapon and false imprisonment, as well as four handgun charges and one count each of first-degree burglary and conspiracy to commit armed robbery, according to court documents.
Baumgardner maintained his innocence even after he was found guilty on all counts and was sentenced to 48 years by McCormick late last month. Young was convicted as an accessory before the fact to the crime and is scheduled to be sentenced in December.
McCormick said she tried to settle on a sentence that both acknowledged Jones’ repentance and held him accountable for the crimes he committed. Because Jones was arrested nearly two years ago, he will only have to serve 13 years of his 30 year sentence before he is eligible for parole, she said.
“I will say your situation is different; you have manned up and accepted responsibility,” she said. “Still, this was awful; it was a vicious, hideous criminal act.”
Jones apologized extensively to the Gomez family and his own loved ones before and after hearing McCormick’s sentence. He told McCormick having a child changed his life and made him pray for a better way.
"I didn't realize at first that me being incarcerated was the answer to my prayers ... I was wrong and I know that this crime deserves a punishment; I accept that," he told McCormick. "I accept full responsibility for my actions and again, I apologize."
Anna Gomez accepted Jones' apology, but also condemned him for his lack of emotion during the crime and for not considering his own family before he decided to rob them.
"You didn't remember at that time that you had a baby, just five days old, while I had in my hands a 7-week-old baby," Anna told Jones.
Still, when McCormick was forced to deny Jones’ final request to kiss his young son on the forehead before he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs, Anna crossed the aisle, swept the boy into her arms, and, with tears in her eyes, kissed him on Jones’ behalf.
“I hope in the future you can be a better person," she told Jones before leaving the courtroom.