Alleged robber’s future in hands of jury
by Wes Mayer
The trial of Ayinde Khalil Pearson, one of the four men accused of armed robbery, came to an end Friday – but the jury did not reach a verdict before 4:30 p.m., and Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer decided to let the jury break until Monday.
Pearson is charged with five counts of being party to the crime of armed robbery and one count of being party to the crime of aggravated assault. Charges stem from two robberies – one of the Tienda del Valle on Farmer Street in Newnan and the other of the Carniceria del Valle on Turkey Creek Road. In both robberies, Pearson is accused of driving the getaway vehicle.
The larger robbery was of the Carniceria del Valle. Prosecutors say two of Pearson’s suspected cohorts, Donquerius Lamonte Mahone and Reggie Jerome Crowder, robbed the store and three customers inside at gunpoint. When the robbers ran from the store and got into the vehicle, they got into a vehicle Pearson is accused of driving. The store’s owner and her daughter drove up and saw them. The 17-year-old daughter pursued the vehicle down Poplar Road, and Mahone and Crowder fired back at her, hitting the windshield and front grill, ending the chase. The 17-year-old was not injured.
Pearson is also accused of driving the vehicle in the Tienda del Valle robbery, during which Mahone ran inside and robbed the clerk at gunpoint, stealing money and cigarettes.
Pearson was indicted alongside Mahone and defendant Deandrez Sherod White. On Wednesday, Mahone pleaded guilty to his five charges of armed robbery, aggravated assault and aggravated assault on a peace officer. On Thursday, White pleaded guilty to his charges of armed robbery, aggravated assault on a peace officer and kidnapping.
Crowder – who is a juvenile but is being tried as an adult – pleaded guilty to charges of armed robbery, aggravated assault, aggravated assault on a peace officer and kidnapping before the trial began.
Crowder was sentenced to 30 years with 18 to serve, and both Mahone and White were sentenced to 40 years with 22 to serve. All three men entered a plea deal where they agreed to testify. However, during the trial, both Mahone and White essentially admitted to committing perjury, so their sentencing may be increased.
On Friday, Coweta assistant district attorneys Kevin McMurry and Trey Reeves called upon Coweta County Sheriff’s Office deputies Trent Hastings and Randy Mickle, who pulled over and arrested Pearson after the robbery of the Carniceria del Valle, as witnesses. The deputies testified that during Pearson’s arrest, a .32 handgun was found in his vehicle that matched one of the types of ammunition recovered during the Carniceria del Valle robbery investigation.
GBI firearms analysis expert Kyle Wheelis told the jury how the bureau performed tests on the firearm retrieved from Pearson’s vehicle to conclude that it was indeed one of the handguns used during the Carniceria del Valle robbery.
White also testified Friday. On Thursday, White pleaded guilty to acting with Mahone and Crowder during multiple armed robberies, but, on Friday, White claimed he was under the influence of medication during his plea, and this made him sleepy. Because of this, he said he did not remember anything from the trial before Friday. As a witness, White said he did not know anything about the other defendants before the trial, and knew nothing about any of the armed robberies.
McMurry asked White if he knew what perjury was, and White said he did not.
Mahone testified in a similar manner earlier, stating that everything he said inside and outside of court prior to Wednesday had been a lie. Mahone, saying it didn’t matter because he was never getting out of prison, admitted to performing all the armed robberies and shooting at the Hogansville Police Officer after a robbery in Hogansville and the 17-year-old after the Carniceria del Valle robbery.
Crowder testified and gave every detail about the robberies he was involved in. The most pertinent robbery for Pearson’s trial was of the Carniceria del Valle, during which Crowder said he used Pearson’s gun for the robbery and to shoot at the 17-year-old. Crowder also said Pearson was driving the vehicle and that after the chase with the 17-year-old ended, Peason allegedly said, “That’s how you do it.”
Crowder was the prosecution’s final witness.
Pearson, who is being defended by attorney Andrew Garland from Villa Rica, then chose to testify in his own defense. Pearson said he had no idea that Mahone or Crowder would rob either the Tienda del Valle or Carniceria del Valle. He said he was simply driving the men to the stores in both instances because they asked and he needed to pick up something – it was not until after the other men got back into the vehicle that Pearson realized they had performed a robbery. Pearson said that looking back, it was stupid to have ever driven to either store with the men.
Pearson told the jury he did not say “That’s how you do it,” as Crowder testified. According to Pearson, he’d asked in disbelief, “That’s how you doin’ it?”
Garland asked Pearson if he ever intended to rob anybody, and Pearson said he did not, and that he was not an armed robber.
Pearson was cross examined by McMurry, who asked Pearson numerous times why his testimony on Friday was so different than what he told Coweta County Investigators Mark Callahan and Elaine Jordan after his arrest – denying having anything to do with either of the robberies. Pearson said everything he said in that interview was a lie because he was scared for his life, and he wanted to distance himself from the robberies. Pearson said he was telling the truth Friday because he was under oath and no longer afraid.
McMurry stated to Pearson if he had absolutely nothing to do with the robberies, he must have contacted the police after they occurred. Pearson responded he did not call the police because he was intimidated and didn’t want to be considered a snitch.
Note: In Friday’s story, it was incorrectly stated that Crowder was sentenced to 40 years with 22 to serve. He was actually sentenced to 30 years with 18 to serve.