Gilliam to stand trial in federal court

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 21, 2004

AHOSKIE – Nearly 14 months have passed since Lester Charles Gilliam allegedly walked into an Ahoskie convenience store, produced a weapon and walked out with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Now the Ahoskie man, if convicted, is preparing to pay for that crime.

Last week, local law enforcement officials handed Gilliam over to federal authorities as a provision in the criminal statutes will allow the 50-year-old to stand trial on a much broader scale.

According to former Ahoskie Police officer Jimmy Barmer, now the Chief of the Aulander Police Department, Gilliam was transferred into federal custody due to his prior criminal history.

&uot;He already had a felony conviction and was part of the federal probation system,&uot; explained Barmer, who, along the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office, was involved with the investigation following an armed robbery of the Duck-Thru Food Store (North Academy Street, Ahoskie) on Nov. 30, 2002.

Barmer continued, &uot;I did some research and found out that federal officials could adopt this case on the basis that Gilliam was a felon and that he had committed an alleged crime by using a handgun.&uot;

Barmer contacted agents with the Office of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and they, in turn, convinced the U.S. Attorney’s office in Raleigh to adopt this local case.

Last week, ATF agents Nicholas Leathers and Jaime Colley led Gilliam away in wrist and leg chains as they transported him to Raleigh. He will be held in federal custody, awaiting his yet undetermined trial date.

Barmer said that depending on the sentence handed down by a federal judge, Gilliam could expect, &uot;15 years to life.&uot;

&uot;If you do the crime, then expect to pay the time,&uot; noted Barmer.

Ahoskie Police Chief Steve Hoggard praised the work by Barmer, his other officers and Sheriff’s deputies in quickly solving the crime just days after it occurred.

That crime took place at 9:46 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2002 where Duck-Thru cashiers reported that a black male, wearing a ski mask, tan coat, dark jeans and gloves, fled on foot after robbing them at gunpoint.

Local law enforcement officers quickly sealed the crime scene and were able to gather key information. Armed with that knowledge, a warrant was drawn for Gilliam’s arrest as well as a search warrant for his place of residence (149A Ahoskie-Cofield Road). There, lawmen discovered a coat matching the description of the one worn by the robbery suspect. In addition, a .38 caliber handgun was found, one fitting the description of the pistol used in the heist. Ammunition was also found at the residence.

Gilliam was originally placed under a $115,000 bond. That included felony charges of armed robbery and possession of a firearm used in a robbery as well as cocaine and marijuana charges as those illegal drugs were discovered in his home during the search.