ELKTON — A man accused of stealing a cell phone from an acquaintance during a purported robbery at an Elkton motel has been acquitted of all charges, after a court trial in which the state’s key witness — the alleged victim — testified that she was too intoxicated to remember the incident.
Retired Cecil County District Court Judge Stephen J. Baker found the defendant, Josh P. Garcia, 24, not guilty of all five charges against him, including robbery and second-degree assault, after a brief bench trial on Friday, court records show.
Elkton Police Department officers arrested Garcia shortly after he allegedly stole a cell phone and a bag of clothes from a 29-year-old woman at approximately 10 a.m. on June 25 at the Sun Rise Inn in the 200 bock of Belle Hill Road, off Route 279, during an argument in which Garcia purportedly slapped her face after spitting in it, police said.
The woman told investigators that she had been staying with Garcia and another man as motel guests in Room 225 when the incident occurred, police added.
Investigators tracked down the purported stolen cell phone to an address in the 100 block of Tartan Drive in Elkton later that day, using the GPS function of a mobile data terminal, and Garcia walked out the back door of that residence while an EPD officer was speaking with a woman at the front door, police reported. Officers took Garcia into the custody after he led them on a short foot chase, police noted.
When the alleged victim took the witness stand on Friday, however, she exhibited a reluctance to testify by attempting to invoke her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, according to Steven Barlow, who serves as an investigator and spokesman for the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The woman discovered that she did not qualify to invoke the right not to testify moments later, after answering procedural questions. (A person is permitted to invoke his or her Fifth Amendment right if testifying might put him or her in jeopardy of self-incrimination or some other specified, undesirable outcome.)
After learning that she did not qualify, the woman informed the court that she had been too drunk on June 25 to remember the incident, Barlow said. The woman remained steadfast, even after prosecutors tried to refresh her memory with a copy of the police report concerning the incident, he added.
The alleged victim was the only witness that the state called during the trial. After the trial, the judge concluded that the state had failed to meet its burden of proof and, in turn, acquitted Garcia of all charges. Assistant Public Defender Jason Ricke represented Garcia.
Garcia was released from the Cecil County Detention Center on Friday, shortly after his acquittal, according to Cecil County Circuit Court records, which further indicate that Garcia had been held as a pre-trial inmate, without bond and later in lieu of a $10,000 bond, for approximately two and a half months after his arrest.