Thursday, Feb. 1, 2007

Fourth teen receives house arrest for role in robbery

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The fourth and final sentencing in the Bethesda Smoothie King robbery was handed down today to 17-year-old Alexander Krouskas in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Judge David A. Boynton ordered Krouskas to serve four months of house arrest followed by one year of supervised probation. The full sentence was three years, but Boynton suspended most of it.

Boynton also ordered Krouskas to perform 50 hours of community service and pay back his share of the $463 stolen from the Smoothie King.

‘‘I’m pleased and relieved,” defense attorney Mariana Cordier told reporters outside the courtroom.

Cordier said she had expected Boynton’s ruling to include five days in jail. Krouskas’ family brought tennis shoes to the courtroom for the teen to wear in jail, she said. No jail time was issued.

Krouskas was working at the Wisconsin Avenue Smoothie King store when the robbery took place on March 30. He took $40 of the $463 stolen that night, and he pleaded guilty on Jan. 4 to conspiracy to commit robbery.

‘‘If there was any way I could take back my actions, I would, and I’m very remorseful,” Krouskas said before Boynton sentenced him.

Boynton asked Krouskas if he had ever met a robbery victim. Krouskas said he had not.

Boynton then told a story that revealed an ironic connection between Krouskas and the judge.

When Boynton was 15, he worked at a 7-Eleven store. One night, he said, two men came into the store carrying a handgun and a shotgun. With a gun barrel inches from his head, Boynton walked over to the safe and opened it.

‘‘The terror that came over me at the time, I cannot describe,” Boynton said. ‘‘You come to a realization that your life is over.”

Even 34 years later, he said, he recalls the robbery whenever he walks into a 7-Eleven.

‘‘It’s something that you really never outlive,” he told Krouskas.

But Boynton also said the teen was ‘‘a lot more responsible and mature than the 18-year-olds I’ve seen in my day.”

He cited Krouskas’ willingness to speak up against the robbery before it happened. He referred to courtroom testimony by Robert Warren, the former Walt Whitman High School student who carried out the robbery.

‘‘Alex said he was having second thoughts that he didn’t want to do this,” Warren had testified during classmate Justin Schweiger’s trial. Krouskas’ attorney read Warren’s statement in court.

‘‘The fact that you said something tells me you have at least some fabric of morality,” Boynton said before ordering the house arrest and probation.

After hearing the sentence, Krouskas’ sister beamed a smile in the teen’s direction. His family members thanked the judge. Krouskas left the courtroom surrounded by his family.

‘‘I think this was probably the first adult wake-up call he’s had,” Cordier said of Krouskas.

Krouskas’ grandfather, uncle and mother testified on the teen’s behalf during the 90-minute sentencing. Chris Calomiris, the 82-year-old grandfather, said Krouskas ‘‘was really truthful” about the robbery and acknowledged his crime.

‘‘When you take responsibility, sometimes you have to pay a price,” Calomiris said.

Prosecutor Thomas DeGonia gave a brief closing statement, asking for the full three-year sentence with all but the local sentence suspended, followed by home detention.

‘‘He was the inside guy,” DeGonia said, reminding the court that Krouskas, who was working at Smoothie King during the robbery, had supplied information about video cameras in the store and initially claimed not to know the robber’s identity.

The robbery brought guilty pleas or verdicts in all five of the teens’ cases.

Warren, the gunman, pleaded guilty to armed robbery charges on Oct. 19 and served a 30-day sentence at the Montgomery County Detention Center in Clarksburg.

Patrick Lazear pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery on Nov. 29, admitting to being the getaway driver and providing the replica 9mm BB gun used in the robbery. In December, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the charge of conspiracy to commit robbery, with all but 12 days of the sentence suspended, plus 30 days of home detention, 150 hours of community service and three years of supervised probation.

Thomas Ashley III, the only one of the five students to be tried as a juvenile, received 100 hours of community service after pleading guilty to one count of accessory after the fact to robbery.

A jury found Justin Schweiger guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery. He is currently serving his sentence of one month in jail, to be followed by 17 weeks of home detention, 100 hours of community service and three years of probation.