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Heist suspects will be tried together
Judge denies motion to separate the 10
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Forsyth County News

The 10 remaining defendants in one of the state’s largest jewelry heists will be tried together in Forsyth County Superior Court.

Eleven suspects were charged in connection with the September 2011 theft of $2.5 million in jewelry from Milano Fine Jewelry on Buford Highway.

In an order earlier this month, Judge David Dickinson denied the motion to sever the defendants to allow for separate trials. And on Nov. 14, he sentenced the 11th man in a negotiated plea.

Michael Willie Young, 44, of Atlanta pleaded guilty to one count of burglary, two counts of felony theft by taking and one count of violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.

Young received a 20-year sentence, with seven to be served in prison and the remainder on probation.

He must also “testify fully and truthfully” in the trials of his co-defendants, who have been charged with the same four counts as Young.

Officials arrested the 11 suspects as a result of an investigation that found evidence linking them to other similar crimes across the state and region, which may have totaled more than $22 million in property damage and theft.

In Dickinson’s order to deny separation, he wrote that “defendants contend that the sheer number of defendants will create confusion for the jury. However, this case contains RICO violations and all the evidence will be admissible against all the defendants, even if they are tried separately.”

The trial, which is slated for early 2013, could take three to five weeks, according to prosecutors.

Dickinson notes in his order that the state will “clearly differentiate the defendants” for the jury, but he could revisit the issue of severance during the trial if needed.

He added that since one defendant has pleaded guilty, others could follow and reduce the number on trial.

The remaining defendants include: Kanardis Holloway, 33; Carl Bowser, 27; Amanda Hogan, 28; Christopher Funderburk, 33; Demetrice Jenkins, 37; Giacobi Kelly, 36; Dave Parker, 32; Eric Stephens, 36; Devoria Wright, 35; and James Love, 42.

All are from Atlanta except Holloway, who is of Smyrna, and Hogan of Jonesboro.

Bowser’s court-appointed attorney, John Rife, has filed several additional motions, including one to “prevent physical and psychological torture of the defendant by the illegal use of electronic devices to inflict pain and suffering.”

In his brief, Rife contends authorities have “threatened” to use a remote-activated custody control belt, which can shock the wearer, on Bowser during court proceedings.

Dickinson has not ruled on the matter.

The Milano theft was reported on Sept. 26, 2011, by a construction crew working at an empty building next door.

They arrived for work that morning and found a hole in the wall that authorities have said the suspects used to enter Milano.

The suspects had disabled the security system, ransacked the store, breached the safe and taken security equipment.

Authorities later recovered about $300,000 worth of the stolen merchandise.