Jury finds alleged robber guilty on five counts
WORTHINGTON -- A violent mugger or a good Samaritan -- that is what a Nobles County jury was tasked with deciding Wednesday after listening to evidence in a case against Clement Pierentino Wani, 21, of Worthington.
After slightly less than three hours of deliberation, the jury decided Wani was guilty of aiding and abetting a simple robbery, attempted simple robbery, third-degree riot, fifth-degree assault and theft.
A sixth charge of simple robbery was dismissed. The verdict came in at approximately 9:30 p.m.
The victim in the case, who testified Wednesday afternoon, said he was visiting friends on July 5.
But when he started to leave sometime between 11 p.m. or midnight, someone pointed out that his bicycle was being stolen from the front yard.
The bike, he said, was his only transportation back and forth to work.
He confronted four people outside -- one woman and three men, all African-American.
The woman and one of the men stayed out of the conversation, he said, but the other two men said they would not give the bike back, and pushed him to the ground when he tried to grab it.
"One is right there," the victim said, pointing at Wani across the courtroom.
The victim said Wani and another man hit and kicked him, holding him down.
"I did nothing. All I wanted was my bicycle," the victim said. "I didn't want this."
According to photos shown to the jury and police testimony, the victim was covered in blood when authorities arrived. A witness down the street had called 911.
Employed at a group home, the woman said she watched the fight out the window of the home, and even stepped outside at one point in hopes the men would see someone watching and disperse.
But they didn't seem to notice her, she said
"Nothing seemed to take them away from how intent they were on hitting him," Carol Coriolan added.
"Did anyone try to stop the assault or help (the victim)?" Nobles County Assistant Attorney Kim Pehrson asked.
"No," Coriolan replied. "I saw no one help him."
The victim needed six stitches above his eye after the assault.
He was bruised, scraped and had a red, swollen face, one officer testified.
The injuries, the victim stated, kept him away from work for three days.
When police got to the general area of the reported fight in progress, they found a man standing on the sidewalk who said he hadn't seen a fight.
A bit further down the block an officer encountered Wani, who had spots of blood all over his clothing.
He told the officer he had not seen a fight. It was a short time later authorities determined both had been involved.
Wani testified, however, he had been walking home from a bar by himself and saw a Hispanic man lying in the grass between the road and sidewalk on Clary Street.
He saw a black man leaving the scene, he said.
"You can tell they fought," he said at one point
Wani claimed he helped the man up from the ground, which is how blood got on his clothing.
Blood, said a forensic scientist with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), that came from the victim.
After he helped the man up, the man began to walk away with his bike, so he continued his walk home, Wani said.
The woman who was with the four men at the time of the assault, Myachang Ter, testified that Wani took the bike and helped another man beat the victim.
The other man, Lotery Heath, pleaded guilty Monday to aiding and abetting a simple robbery.
Heath used an Alford plea, which is not an admission of guilt, but a willingness to enter into a plea agreement from an assumption a jury will find the suspect guilty.
During his plea hearing, Heath said he was walking alone, when two other men joined him.
Ter said she and the three men were walking together after leaving a friend's house when Wani took the bike.
When Wani and the others got involved in the fight, she said she yelled at them to stop.
At first, she said, Wani was asking the victim for money and digging through his pockets.
Later, he ran away yelling he had gotten the money.
Cash was found in his pocket stained with blood, but because the victim stated in court he never carries money and was not missing any money, the jury never found out if the bills tested in the BCA lab were stained with his blood.
Wani's testimony differed from a police officer, the victim and the victim's friend, who all said when Wani was taken into custody and brought to the scene for the victim to identify, the officer removed Wani from the squad car so he could be identified.
Wani said he was never taken out of the car.
Judge George Harrelson ordered a pre-sentence investigation and the matter will be set for sentencing at a later date.