In New Orleans Saints country, an Atlanta Falcons hat proved to be a key piece of evidence that tied a Baton Rouge man to the July 2015 armed robbery of a store clerk and the attempted armed robbery of a hotel security guard two hours later, a prosecutor told a jury Tuesday.
East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Ryan Volo also told jurors in his opening statement that the Comfort Suites security guard wrestled a black pistol from Jonathan Robertson, a gun that Volo alleged was the same gun Robertson used earlier to rob the Cracker Barrel convenience store clerk.
What Volo couldn't tell the jury is that the gun was traced to the fatal June 2015 shooting of two Texas women in Baton Rouge, and that Robertson is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in their deaths.
A Baton Rouge man has been indicted in the 2015 killing of two 23-year-old Texas women found fatally shot in a parked car on Boone Avenue.
Robertson, 29, is standing trial this week only on single counts of armed robbery and attempted armed robbery, crimes that carry up to 99 years and 50 years in prison, respectively. Courts ruled that those counts had to be tried separately from the second-degree murder counts.
Robertson doesn't have a trial date in the double-homicide case. Second-degree murder carries a mandatory term of life in prison.
Robertson's attorney, East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant Public Defender Margaret Lagattuta, told the jury that neither the store clerk, Vindushi Sood, nor the security guard, Warren Lands, was able to positively identify Robertson as their assailant.
In addition to a gun, an Atlanta Falcons hat with a sticker still on the front bill and a Falcon on the back, and a black glove were left at the hotel parking lot crime scene. Sood testified the man who robbed her wore a glove on the hand that held the gun.
Volo said Robertson's DNA was found on the hat. Lagattuta said an unknown person's DNA also was detected on the hat.
Volo called the hat a "very specific hat" and added that "Atlanta Falcons hats aren't common in south Louisiana."
Lagattuta argued there's nothing special about the Falcons hat and said "it's not enough" to convict Robertson of armed robbery and attempted armed robbery.
Sood testified she couldn't identify the man who robbed her because his face was partially covered, and she avoided making eye contact with him so he wouldn't shoot her.
"He walked me behind the register. He called me a bunch of names. He had a gun. He said he was going to shoot me," she said.
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Sood said the armed robber made off with about $70.
"You're trying to shoot a person for $70. That's crazy," she said.
Surveillance video shown to the jury indicates the armed robber was in the Cracker Barrel store at 15421 Jefferson Highway for less than a minute. The robbery took place shortly before 2 a.m.
The Comfort Suites was at 3045 Valley Creek Drive. The attempted armed robbery outside the hotel occurred around 4 a.m.
The Atlanta Falcons hat was shown to the jury Tuesday, as were the gun and black glove. The trial will resume Wednesday.
In the double homicide that occurred 12 days before the armed robbery and attempted armed robbery, Brandi Gilbert, of Plano, Texas, and Corrine Rayford, of Grapevine, Texas, were found in a parked car on Boone Avenue in Baton Rouge. The 23-year-old women had been shot in the head.
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Rayford was to be a witness in a human trafficking case in Dallas, but the case was dismissed after she was killed June 19, 2015. Lagattuta has suggested her death and that of Gilbert might have been a contract killing committed by someone else, but prosecutors have said there's no evidence to back that claim.