State drops charge in robbery

CONYERS -- State prosecutors were forced to drop an armed robbery charge for a man after an equipment malfunction led to failure to record an interview that was to be used as evidence.

Anaiah Theophilus Petty, 22, of Porterdale was charged with armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime in connection with a September 2008 incident in which a gunman robbed a pizza delivery person of about $46 worth of pizza and about $145 in cash on Harvest Grove Lane.

A grand jury indicted Petty on the charges in October 2009 and he was denied bond.

According to court proceedings Wednesday, the delivery person got a call for an order and went to make the delivery. A woman at the address informed the victim that she did not order pizza. The victim called back to work and received a different address. The victim then went to knock on the door of the new apartment when a masked assailant put a pistol against him and demanded money.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Stalcup explained to the court that it was a "rather complicated case" in which evidence would show that more than one person was involved. Stalcup said investigators found out the person calling in the fake orders lived in one of the Harvest Grove apartments.

Petty reportedly admitted to "some participation" in the Harvest Grove incident while in Newton County Jail for an unrelated matter. However, Stalcup said that the audio was not working during Petty's taped interview with law enforcement.

"Their interview room recording system didn't work? They're still using silent movies in Newton County?" Nation asked.

"Apparently this has been going on for some time," Stalcup said. "This is not the only case."

"You can't get a lip reader?" Nation said.

There would not be much of a case without the taped interview, Stalcup told the court, saying it would be more of a "he-said, she-said" situation.

The state had "some other collateral evidence" according to Stalcup. But after considering all the facts, the state decided to prosecute only the gun charge and recommended a straight five-year sentence.

"So that (armed robbery charge) goes out the window?" Nation asked.

Local attorney David LaMalva, who represented Petty, said he discussed potential risks with his client and they thought a negotiated guilty plea to the gun charge was in Petty's best interest.

Stalcup also added that the state discussed the situation with the victim.

Nation recounted an incident in which a pizza delivery robbery turned into a murder.

"This reminds me, a little bit, of a case we had 10 or 12 years ago, we had a pizza delivery person murdered, shot and killed," Nation told the court. "These things can be very serious and this is being dropped ... but this is the bargain that you all agreed on."

Nation followed the state's recommendation and sentenced Petty to five years in confinement.