- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A Maryland appeals court has ruled that a convicted bank robber can only receive one sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, but otherwise rejected his complaints about his trial from a 2007 holdup in Lexington Park.
The three judges with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals noted that Antonio Warren Gantt, a 45-year-old Calvert County resident, made no contentions about “the substantive merits of guilt or innocence” in the $43,000 heist, in which bank employees testified that Gantt sprayed them with gasoline and herded them into a vault.
Gantt originally was convicted in the case in 2008, before the appeals court ruled that he was entitled to another trial, held in 2011.
“This is an open-and-shut case for a crime that occurred six years ago,” appeals court judges ruled in an opinion issued last week. “Essentially, the case has been enmired for six years in [legal-representation issues] and similar peripheral concerns. Instead of being tried by the criminal justice system for his substantive criminal behavior in robbing a bank, the appellant has put the criminal justice system on trial for its procedural handling of his persistently disruptive behavior. It is time for closure.”
Gantt put his hands in the air and said, “You all got me. I don’t want to die over this ---- ,” when police stopped a cab he was riding in moments after the heist at the Maryland Bank and Trust branch, the appeals court opinion states, and he also was charged with another holdup, for $20,000, that had occurred a month earlier at the same location. Gantt ultimately pleaded guilty to a robbery charge in that case, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
But he originally was tried and convicted in both cases, verdicts that were overturned by the appeals court on grounds that Gantt should have been advised in court when he chose to be his own lawyer that he could receive the life sentence if he was found guilty.
Gantt’s latest appeal from his retrial and conviction in the second robbery again focused on his legal representation issues, after he again rejected his public defender, and on the trial judge’s subsequent rulings and comments to Gantt about his right to testify, summon witnesses, have his trial postponed and strike potential witnesses. The appeals court affirmed St. Mary’s Circuit Judge Karen H. Abrams’ handling of those issues, and the opinion extensively quoted Gantt’s occasionally vulgar comments to her.
“For a cagey defendant with no hope of relief on the merits of guilt or innocence, creating as much [legal-representation] turmoil as possible may be a far more promising path to appellate reversal than would be reliance on the evidentiary merits,” retired appeals court Judge Charles E. Moylan Jr. wrote in last week’s opinion.
The opinion notes that prosecutors concurred that Gantt can only receive one sentence of life parole in the second bank heist that resulted in his conviction on three counts of armed robbery, and that he is entitled to be resentenced on two of those charges.