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Convicted bank robber gets life sentences reduced

Cornelius Leroy Chase

Leonardtown, MD -- One of the people charged with the 2004 armed robbery of Cedar Point Federal Credit Union in Leonardtown has had his sentence reduced. Cornelius Chase, 53, of Mechanicsville was sentenced in 2010 by now retired Circuit Court Judge C. Clark Raley to three life sentences plus 45 year in connection with the crime. But Maryland Court of Special Appeals remanded the case back to the local court because it ruled the harsh sentences were out of line with a sentencing agreement between the state and the defense.

At a May 14 sentencing hearing, Judge Karen Abrams imposed a new sentence of 50 years without the possibility of parole for three separate charges. Chase is also serving 10 years on another robbery conviction. So the difference between three life sentences plus 45 years versus 60 years may be a distinction without a difference for a 53-year-old-man.

The sentencing hearing was contentious, with Chase at times appearing not to understand what was going on and blaming Deputy State’s Attorney Daniel White for his predicament. Chase has reportedly filed an attorney grievance against White and also filed a suit against him which has been dismissed.

Chase told the judge she (Abrams) was piling on to the sentence he was already serving. Judge Abrams tried to explain to Chase that she was reducing his sentence and was doing so because the appeals court ordered it, but Chase remained unsatisfied.

Chase and his nephew Derrick Green were arrested in 2009 for the robbery five years before. Also arrested was Martha Thompson, who had been a clerk at the bank and allegedly gave the other robbers inside information that enabled them to commit the robbery.

Thompson received 10 years in jail for her part in the robbery but all but 18 months was suspended. On May 11 Thompson was sent back to jail to serve the unsuspended eight-and-a-half years for violation of probation. That sentence was imposed by Judge Michael Stamm.

Chase is serving his time at the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland and was brought down to St. Mary’s County for the sentencing hearing. Because of his history of erratic behavior, he was surrounded by correctional officers and local court security personnel during the contentious hearing.

Chase was represented at the hearing by public defender Edie Fortuno Cimino. The situation with the public defender’s office became a side issue for Judge Abrams before Chase was brought in for sentencing.

The supervisor of the public defender’s St. Mary’s County office, Gerald Riviello, was recently abruptly transferred to Charles County and Cimino transferred from Charles to St. Mary’s. That left many of the clients due in court without the lawyer who had represented them up to that point, as was the case with Chase.

Cimino thus talked to Chase for the first time prior to the sentencing hearing and Chase during the hearing expressed displeasure at that situation.

Cimino apologized to the judge and asked for understanding since her office was in “a transition period.” The judge responded, “It’s not (a transition period). If it was Mr. Riviello would be here.”

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com

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