Alleged Grocery Robbery Suspects Head to County Court
Jurell Smalls and Mark Williams are charged in the September 5, 2011 robbery of Famous Grocery in Lansdale. The business owner testified at the hearing, through the use of a Bengali interpreter
A Bengali interpreter translated a Lansdale business owner's testimony of when he was robbed the evening of Sept. 5, 2011 by two men.
"The back door was open, and two persons entered. One of them straightaway came to my cash. The other was about 20 feet behind," translated Banerjee.
Through the translation of Ananda , Abdul Chowdhury told of how he was forced at gunpoint to open his register by one of two men that entered through the back door of Famous Grocery at 21 W. Main St. The store was open for business during the robbery, and Chowdhury was alone.
"He came and asked for the register to be opened and give money. I was getting a little hesitant in doing that," translated Banerjee.
He didn't comply to the demand; he testified he understood "some English." Then, he said, the taller of the two men, the one with the "revolver" — which police said is Smalls — fired a shot at the ground, near his legs.
"He fired toward my feet, but it didn't hit my feet. After this, I opened the register and they took all the money in the register," said Banerjee. "After this, they went away ... They walk together, both of them."
Chowdhury said he was robbed of $1,200. The affidavit of probable cause states $400.
The defendants in the case: Jurell Smalls and Mark Williams, two Lansdale residents charged as being the two perpetrators in the robbery.
Smalls was the gunman; Williams was his accomplice, police said.
"The shot didn't hit me," continued Chowdhury in his testimony. "I was under shock. I opened the register quickly. The other person came in the same vicinity and took away all the money. They needed money and took the money."
Police said that "other person" was Williams.
It was Banerjee's duty to translate the questions from Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Teresa Kibelstis and the defendants' attorneys. Smalls was being represented by Mark Parlow, and Williams was represented by Dan McCartney.
During Chowdhury's testimony, Smalls remained with his back turned to the court and witness, facing the wall through the entire testimony.
In the end, Judge Harold Borek held all charges against both suspects.
Smalls also had his bail reduced to $5,000 unsecured, in order to get a job in the prison.
Smalls is charged with felony robbery that commits serious bodily injury, felony robbery with the threat to commit serious injury, felony conspiracy to commit robbery, felony conspiracy to commit robbery with the threat of serious injury, theft, conspiracy to commit theft, possession of a weapon, conspiracy to possess a weapon, recklessly endangering another person, conspiracy to recklessly endanger another person, simple assault, and conspiracy to commit simple assault, according to court records.
Williams is charged with felony robbery that commits serious bodily injury, felony robbery with the threat to commit serious injury, felony conspiracy to commit robbery, felony conspiracy to commit robbery with the threat of serious injury, theft, conspiracy to commit theft, and recklessly endangering another person, according to court records.
Both will be arraigned at the county level on Dec. 19 at 9:30 a.m.
McCartney tried to get Borek to dismiss all charges against Williams. He said Chowdhury never identified his client in testimony and there is no evidence to link Williams to the robbery.
Chowdhury could not specify the race of the second suspect when asked by McCartney, just that he was "shorter than the first one" and had "black hair."
Furthermore, McCartney claimed it was hearsay that the name "Mark Williams" was named in a statement given by Smalls to Lansdale Police after his arrest on September 22, 2012.
The statement, he continued, could not specifically identify his client as that "Mark Williams."
Chowdury also testified he told police that the first suspect was white. He said he could not identify Smalls in photos provided by police. Parlow argued that his client is black.
Barlow attempted to have the charges of felony robbery with serious bodily injury and its conspiracy charge dismissed at the hearing. Barlow said Smalls never threatened Chowdhury in any way.
During the hearing, Lansdale Police Investigator Chad Bruckner testified that Smalls gave a verbal and written statement to police, on Smalls' own accord.
Bruckner even read the entire written statement during his testimony. He also said Smalls signed the document in his presence.
In the question-and-answer statement, Smalls said he wanted to speak to police about the robbery.
"I came in the back door and I told him to give me the money. He was taking too long, so I shot the floor and he opened the register," said Bruckner, reading from Smalls' written statement.
Bruckner said Smalls said a "Mark" was with him during the robbery.
"Question: Mark who? Answer: Mark Williams," said Bruckner. "Question: What does he look like? Answer: Short white kid. Question: Does he go by a street name? Answer: Pretty Boy."
Bruckner said Smalls stated that he robbed the store because he was broke.
"We walked by and saw the dude in there. We walked to my crib and grabbed my BB gun," read Buckner from Smalls' statement.
Smalls stated to police that Williams had no role in the robbery. He stated Williams doesn't use drugs because he is on probation.
Smalls stated to police that he didn't split the money with Williams because "he didn't do nothing."
At the end of his written statement, Smalls apologized for the robbery.
"I apologize. It was something that shouldn't have been done," said Bruckner.
Bruckner testified Wednesday he had prior contact with Smalls.
During a search warrant service, Lansdale Police uncovered a BB handgun in Smalls' bedroom. Bruckner testified at that hearing that Smalls told him the gun was used in the robbery of Famous Grocery. The robbery was committed, according to Bruckner's testimony, for Smalls to support his Oxycontin addiction.