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Victim in robbery testifies at suspect's trial

Published Sep. 4, 2005

(ran PC edition)

After a brief scuffle and a noisy shootout, William "Dave" Newman said the three robbers who attacked him June 16 took a wad of cash and left behind a lifetime of frightening memories.

Newman, a big, burly man, was choked with emotion on the witness stand Tuesday as he recalled the hand-to-hand struggle with three attackers at his Darby home.

Newman was shot in the leg, but prosecutors say he and his son-in-law helped bring the robbers to justice. A trial for the first of two men charged in the attack began Tuesday.

"He is absolutely, positively the one," Newman said as he pointed out Aledward Robertson, 28, of Auburndale in the courtroom. "I'll never forget him. I think about him every day."

Robertson's appointed attorney, A.J. Ivie, told jurors his client was an innocent victim of mistaken identity.

Prosecutor Manny Garcia told the jury of four women and two men a different story. He said Robertson and at least two other men lay in wait for Newman as the 59-year-old auctioneer finished mowing his yard.

They ambushed him. They gagged him and tied him to a tractor, threatened to kill his wife, hit him on the head with a sledgehammer and shot him in the leg, Garcia said.

Newman told jurors the men demanded cash, lots of it. One told him they thought there was a million dollars in the house, Newman recalled.

In reality, he had about $7,000 in cash from an auction a day earlier.

One of the men repeatedly whispered, "I just want to f------ kill you," Newman said.

Throughout the ordeal, Newman said Robertson was the spokesman, the "good cop" of the group, trying to talk him out of the money instead of using violence.

Holding back tears, 6-foot-1, 285-pound Newman told jurors how he ripped free of the red bailing twine he was bound with and fled into a storeroom, then drove Robertson away with a blast of rat shot fired from a pistol he had stashed years earlier. He telephoned his daughter for help.

He recounted how his son-in-law, Martin Harm, came to his rescue, driving up to catch the men in the act and blasting away with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol in a gun battle with the robbers until they fled.

Newman said there's not a doubt in his mind that when Pasco County sheriff's deputies showed him a photograph of a man they caught behind a restaurant down the road the next day that it was indeed Robertson.

Ivie argued in his opening statement that Robertson was just a passerby.

"In short," Ivie said, "Mr. Robertson just got caught up in an ugly mess, simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The trial is scheduled to continue today. Robertson could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the kidnapping, armed burglary, armed robbery, and aggravated assault charges he is facing.

A second man, Wilford Stanley Washington, 29, of De Soto County, has also been charged. At least one other escaped.