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Armed bank robbers opt out of trial, but convicted anyway
Last week's trial went about as well for two gun-wielding York County bank robbers as their last heist, in which police captured them in less than two minutes.
Since being charged in 2015, Dennis Chemil Harris and Stanley Alexander Riddic, both of Maryland, have fired court-appointed attorneys and been granted new ones, and they also have requested a number of trial continuances, according to court records and officials — including one from Harris the day of jury selection that was denied.
But for all their court wrangling, neither of the robbers attended their own trial.
Defense attorney Kevin Hoffman, who at the last minute was ordered by the judge to represent 32-year-old Riddic, described last week's court drama as "a series of unfortunate events."
Those "unfortunate events" started Monday morning, when Harris, 52, collapsed in the courtroom and was briefly taken to York Hospital.
They ended Wednesday when jurors wasted no time in convicting the duo of robbing the Northwest Savings Bank, at 2220 S. Queen St. in York Township, at gunpoint on Sept. 15, 2015.
"The jury deliberated for about an hour ... including lunch," Hoffman said.
A third co-defendant in the case, Derek J. Lozzi, 52, of Baltimore, decided to plead guilty on Monday, prior to jury selection. He was the getaway driver and remained outside while the masked Harris and Riddic robbed the bank with handguns, York Area Regional Police have said.
Lozzi pleaded guilty to bank robbery and was sentenced to time served, according to court records. At that point he had spent 553 days in York County Prison.
Two hospital trips: Jury selection began Monday morning but was abruptly halted for Harris.
"The first time that Mr. Harris suffered a medical incident, I believe he had just been provided with the questionnaires for the jury," Hoffman said.
Harris was taken to York Hospital but returned to court Monday afternoon, according to Assistant Chief Deputy Steven Diehl of the York County Sheriff's Office.
But he was transported to the hospital a second time after complaining of more medical issues.
Diehl said county officials don't know whether Harris' medical issues were real or whether he was faking.
Hoffman said Harris' second medical episode happened right after Judge Cook denied Harris' request for another trial continuance.
2 days, 2 no-shows: Things didn't go any more smoothly on Tuesday.
"Harris would not come out of his cell (Tuesday) morning, and therefore he was not transported" to the judicial center for trial, said Kyle King, spokesman for the York County District Attorney's Office.
Riddic also was a no-show for trial on Tuesday, apparently because he'd been in a vehicle crash Monday evening in Baltimore, according to Hoffman.
"The court received a fax from Bayview (Medical Center) that Mr. Riddic appeared there on Tuesday and ... they asked that he be excused from work until the 19th," Hoffman said. "There was no commentary (in the note) regarding his ability to appear for trial."
But if the men thought they could force the judge's hand and make her delay trial, they were mistaken.
Harris also refused to come to court on Wednesday, Hoffman confirmed.
The trial must go on: Cook ordered they be tried in absentia, even though both Harris and Riddic were representing themselves.
Hoffman had at one time been appointed to represent Riddic but was fired by him prior to trial, according to court records. When Cook allowed Riddic to act as his own attorney, called being "pro se," she directed Hoffman to act as standby counsel, in case Riddic needed help.
After ordering the trial go on without its two main characters, she re-appointed Hoffman to represent Riddic, the attorney said. The judge revoked Riddic's bail after the conviction, but he remains at large.
Hoffman said it's not only the first time he represented a client in absentia — it's the first time he's been involved in a trial where both co-defendants were missing in action.
"I have communicated with my client both about the case and the resulting conviction, and he plans to file an appeal," Hoffman said.
He confirmed no one presented a defense for Harris.
More trials coming: Harris remains accused of committing two other York County bank robberies, and Riddic is charged in one of them.
Both are accused of robbing the Santander Bank at 880 W. Broadway in Red Lion on Sept. 4, 2015, and Harris is accused of robbing the Wells Fargo Bank at 20 S. Main St in Stewartstown on Aug. 20, 2015. Both robberies were perpetrated at gunpoint, according to court documents.
King said the men's second trial could start Monday.
Whether either Harris or Riddic manage to make it to trial remains to be seen.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.