Posted at: 03/25/2013 3:25 PM
Updated at: 03/25/2013 6:26 PM
By: Brett Davidsen
For the first time, the Monroe County District Attorney's Office acknowledges there may be more to the surveillance video of a Brighton store robbery than meets the eye.
Today the four men seen in the video of the robbery at Gold 4 Cash in June 2011 pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Attorneys for the men had said from the beginning that the robbery was staged and they were hired to help pull off an insurance fraud. And the DA's office appeared willing to cut a deal after evidence emerged that seemed to back up the claims of the four suspects.
For more than a year and a half, the images from a store surveillance video seemed to suggest a violent armed jewelry heist that left the store owner and an employee roughed up and tied up. But just a day before the case was to go to trial, the prosecutor acknowledged the video is likely not entirely as it appears.
"There's a lot to this case and there's more to this case than these four individuals," said assistant district attorney Kevin Fitzgerald.
So today, after working out a deal, Marquis Elliot, Brandon Douglas, Clayton Woods and Brandon Johnson stood before a judge and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge related to the robbery that will see them spend considerably less time in prison.
"As you heard over the course of the last year and a half, a lot of new developments came up and basically because of those developments, is why this plea came out today," said Elliot's attorney Michael Schiano.
One of those developments was a supporting deposition given to Brighton Police under penalty of perjury by John Grandberry of Rochester. I-Team 10 first reported on the existence of the statement last week.
In it, Grandberry tells police he was working at a pawn shop on Monroe Avenue when he says he was approached by his boss, a man by the name of Luke Corona.
Grandberry told police that Corona "had a buddy who owned a jewelry/pawn shop and that the owner of the shop and luke wanted to stage a robbery for insurance money."
Grandberry says he put Corona in touch with Elliot (known as "keys") and says Elliot then recruited the other three men you see in the video.
Corona has not been charged in connection with the case. He has moved out of state. Reached by phone Friday, he called Grandberry's claims outrageous.
"Obviously it's been our theory that he was directly involved in this," said Schiano. "There's been a number of statements from other individuals suggesting he had a direct involvement in all this and I think that there's a number of witnesses who suggest he played a major part in what happened here."
George Douglas, the uncle of Brandon Douglas, says investigators should continue to pursue others who may be linked.
"Often times people who are the real force behind crime sometimes, they're able to get away with it because they're in a position to get away with it."
Sal Arcidiacono owns Gold 4 Cash. He has declined to comment because the investigation is ongoing. But in an interview shortly after the robbery, he told i-team 10 he didn't any of the four men, nor did he know anyone who knows them.
"Absolutely not. Never seen them. Never had any dealings with them," he said.
The prosecutor says the four men may have been duped into believing it was a set-up to convince them to go through with the robbery.
"The best information I have at this point is that Sal Arcidiacono was not involved in setting this up, but I have information and reason to believe that these four men were told that," Fitzgerald added.
Staged or not, Douglas says it doesn't totally absolve his nephew and the others in the video who, regardless of motive, acknowledged at their plea hearing today that they did enter that store intent on committing a crime.
"It's kind of sad, but it's a lesson that sometimes is necessary for young men to realize that, you know, they don't just have a license to do what they want to do, that there are repercussions to anyone's actions," said Douglas.
As a result, Douglas, Woods and Elliot pleaded guilty to second degree robbery and will serve 3 1/2 years in prison. Johnson pleaded guilty to second degree attempted robbery and will serve 5 years (he has prior felony convictions).
Attorneys for the men say their clients could have faced as much as 50 years on the original charges.
Also, the prosecutor today said it's their belief the gun used in the robbery, wasn't real.
And he says this is still very much an open case and that there is a possibility of additional arrests.