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Dave Roepke, Published September 24 2010

Accused wants evidence withheld

Watching a news report on TV about a string of gas-station stickups, LaSamuel Richardson III allegedly did some boasting.

He told his girlfriend he looked good in the surveillance video, police say she told investigators months after the 2007 robberies.

Less than two weeks before he’s set to stand trial on one of the four robberies police suspect he pulled, Richardson is arguing that the comments to his girlfriend and a gun he had when he was arrested weeks later on another matter should be withheld from jurors.

Defense attorney Lorelle Moeckel is also seeking a dismissal on grounds that testimony by two convicted accomplices isn’t backed up by corroborating evidence as required by law.

After hearing arguments in Cass County District Court on Thursday, Judge Wickham Corwin said he’ll rule on the evidence issues by early next week, prior to the Oct. 5 trial date, but he offered an unsubtle hint on his impending decision on the dismissal motion.

“I’d advise both of you to continue to prepare for trial because that’s the way I’m leaning now,” he said.

The robbery case against the 21-year-old is coming to a head now, though he was charged in January 2009, because he has had other criminal cases on his plate. He was sentenced to a combined five years of prison and probation earlier this week for a stabbing in West Fargo in 2007.

He’s serving a five-year Minnesota prison term for charges stemming from the police chase that prompted his arrest Sept. 2, 2007, with an anticipated release date of Jan. 11, 2011. He became a suspect in the robberies after the post-chase arrest.

Though police forwarded reports to prosecutors that linked Richardson to four robberies in the Fargo area in the summer of 2007, Cass County prosecutor Ryan Younggren declined to file charges in all but one – the robbery shortly after midnight on July 23, 2007, at the Kum & Go at 2501 23rd Ave. S. in Fargo.

Richardson’s former girlfriend, Amanda Sanders, testified Thursday that she does not know anything about that particular robbery, and she didn’t recall many of the statements she made to police three years ago.

In addition to the alleged remark concerning how he looked in a security tape, Sanders also told cops that when she asked Richardson about a sudden influx of cash, he said he’d robbed gas stations. Though she is unable to remember either conversation, a recording of the interview with Sanders could be used at trial.

Corwin sounded dubious when Younggren said he’d like to introduce the statements without making any reference to the robberies for which he’s not charged.

“If you sanitize it, now you’re distorting it,” the judge said.

Corwin also said he’s not sure if the state can show that Richardson and Sanders were watching video from the July 23 robbery as he purportedly commented on his appearance since tapes from at least two of the four stickups were released to media outlets.

As for the argument that there’s no corroboration of the two getaway drivers, Ibrahim Kamara and Dallas Goulet, Corwin said the accomplices’ story matches accounts by a store clerk and the trail of the robber a police dog sniffed out.

Attorneys also sparred on whether the gun found on Richardson after the Sept. 2 chase could be admitted in the robbery trial.

Corwin said he was concerned about admitting the black pistol since there’s no way to prove it was used in the Kum & Go robbery.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535