Gaithersburg man gets 60-year sentence for violent College Park poker game robbery -- Gazette.Net


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This story was updated at 3:52 p.m. Jan. 10, 2013.

A Gaithersburg man was sentenced today to 60 years in prison for robbing and assaulting people playing poker at a College Park apartment in 2011.

Following a jury trial in September, Sergio Hernandez, 24, was convicted on 52 of 53 counts of robbery, assault and related charges stemming from the holdup that involved Hernandez beating victims in the head with firearms before fleeing with money, cell phones, clothing and other valuables.

During the sentencing, Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Maureen Lamasney merged several related counts, and Hernandez was sentenced on 19 counts, accounting for 60 consecutive years in prison, though he will be eligible for parole after serving 30, according to state’s attorney’s office officials.

Elias Martinez, 26, of Hyattsville and Raheem Johnson, 24, of Hyattsville were believed to be involved in the crime and already pleaded guilty. Martinez was sentenced in September to 18 months and Johnson was sentenced in October to four years, according to online county court records.

According to charging documents, Hernandez and a co-conspirator, who has not been arrested or identified, were made aware of the poker gatherings and came to the apartment Aug. 13, 2011.

When a woman answered the apartment door, Hernandez and the unidentified co-conspirator pistol-whipped her on the head and rushed inside, announcing a robbery, according to charging documents.

“This was a violent incident and also a quality-of-life crime, an issue that we’ve been talking about that we want to crack down on,” said John Erzen, a spokesman for Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, noting that there were nine victims in the crime. “We’re certainly pleased with the outcome. We feel the punishment certainly fits the crime. Certainly now, his future is going to be off the streets where he can’t hurt the citizens of Prince George’s County.”

Prosecutors said the two suspects held the victims at gunpoint while gathering possessions, including pants to get victims’ wallets.

“Rather than just take their wallets from their pockets, they told them to take off their pants and hand them over,” Erzen said.

Prosecutor Mike Wallace said the state used several witnesses, including victims, in the case who were able to positively identify Hernandez as one of the suspects, which helped secure the conviction, he said.

Wallace said at one point, Hernandez took off his mask as a way to intimidate the victims who at first were not complying with the demands to lay on the ground at gunpoint.

“We had several witnesses identify him in court and had a video that showed Hernandez coming into the building, on surveillance tape from the apartment,” Wallace said. “At one point, he took off his mask, threatening and taunting the victims.”

In a statement, Alsobrooks said having witnesses identify Hernandez as a gunman in the incident was the key to winning the case.

“When our victims and witnesses come forward, it can have a tremendous impact on the outcome of our cases,” she said. “This case demonstrated how much the criminal justice system relies on victims and witnesses. When people come forward, our process is strengthened.”

Silver Spring-based defense attorney Gary Gerstenfield, who represented Hernandez in the case, did not immediately return calls for comment.

djgross@gazette.net