Trial Begins for 2007 Jewelry Store Burglars

By: Mark Vaughn, WJHG-TV
By: Mark Vaughn, WJHG-TV

The first of the defendants accused of a million dollar string of Smash 'n Grab jewelry store burglaries went on trial Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Maurice Robinson was part of a ring of burglars that hit three jewelry stores in the early morning hours of November 19th, 2007.

The first break-in happened at the Maharaja Jewelry Store on Middle Beach Road about 5:00 that morning. The thieves hit Surf Jewelers about half an hour later.

The final burglary took place about 20 minutes later at the Maharaja Store on 23rd Street in Panama City. In each instance, the burglars smashed the glass door, then broke the display cases and took the expensive jewelry.

Robinson was arrested as the group was leaving the 23rd Street store.

Investigators believe he is a member of a Miami-based organized ring that has been pulling these smash 'n grab burglaries all over the Southeast.

Tuesday lawyers presented opening arguments this morning to the five woman, two man jury.

Then prosecutors began presenting evidence connecting Robinson to the 6man group that broke into the stores. Assistant State Attorney Larry Basford said police found a stolen watch on Robinson and police several other stolen items in the area where he was arrested.

But the defense countered, saying the time frame of the three crimes and the lack of evidence linking him to the crimes make Robinson innocent.

He also pointed out all the burglars allegedly wore black clothing and masks. Robinson was wearing a light colored shirt and camouflage pants at the time of his arrest.

The trial is expected to continue throughout the week.

News Channel Seven's Mark Vaughn is currently sitting inside the trial, and will bring you more updates as they come available.

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