FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 9, 2012
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Two District Men Sentenced to Decades in Prison
For Felony Murder While Armed and Other Charges
In Armed Robberies at Check-Cashing Stores
- Men Killed Store Owner in June 2010 Robbery on Benning Road NE -
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Gregory Trotter, 60, and Ernest Pee Jr., 51, both of Washington, D.C., were sentenced today to decades in prison for carrying out a conspiracy to rob check-cashing stores that culminated with an armed robbery and murder in June 2010 at a business in Northeast Washington, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.
Trotter was sentenced to 58 years and nine months of incarceration. Pee was sentenced to a prison term of 47 years and six months. The men were convicted by a jury in December 2011, following a trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, of more than two dozen felony charges, including conspiracy and felony murder while armed. They were sentenced by the Honorable Gerald I. Fisher.
The jury found Trotter and Pee guilty of the May 28, 2010 armed robbery of a check-cashing store in the 4000 block of Minnesota Avenue NE. The men also were convicted in a subsequent armed robbery, on June 17, 2010, at a check-cashing store in the 2300 block of Benning Road NE that led to the murder of store owner Prabhjot Singh, 30.
According to the government’s evidence, the men entered the Minnesota Avenue store with firearms. Trotter pistol-whipped the store owner, while Pee acted as a look-out. Both men were disguised with construction outfits and wore dust masks on their faces and latex gloves on their hands. They stole about $6,000 in the robbery. The jury convicted both men of armed robbery, second degree burglary while armed, and various firearms offenses for their roles in this attack.
The evidence also proved that Trotter and Pee entered the Benning Road store in different disguises, with their faces covered by masks. During this crime, Trotter held his gun on two store customers, while Pee pistol-whipped Mr. Singh’s father, Privthi Pal Singh, a senior citizen. Prabhjot Singh died while saving a female customer from Trotter, who was pointing a loaded revolver in her face. The defendants stole about $40,000 in the robbery.
The jury convicted both men of one count of felony murder while armed based on the armed robbery, one count of felony murder while armed based on the burglary, armed robbery of a senior citizen, second degree burglary while armed, assault with a dangerous weapon, and various firearms offenses for the crimes at the store on Benning Road.
“Both of these career criminals will spend the rest of their lives in prison for killing a young man while trying to rob his family’s store,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Prabhjot Singh lost his life because he had the courage to stand up and try to protect an innocent woman from being assaulted during a robbery. Although life sentences for the two men responsible for this horrendous crime will never bring Mr. Singh back, hopefully the punishments handed out in this matter will comfort the family as they try to move forward from this devastating and senseless loss of life. “
At a ceremony last year, the Singh family was honored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, with a posthumous award for the bravery exhibited by Prabhjot Singh in acting to protect others from being hurt in this violent attack.
In announcing the sentencings, U.S. Attorney Machen lauded the swift pursuit of the fleeing defendants by alert citizens, including a Metro bus driver and one of Mr. Singh’s customers, who were able to provide the police with a partial license tag of Pee’s getaway car. He also commended the efforts of Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Cold Case/Major Case Detectives Mitchell Credle, Darryl Richmond, Jeff Owens, Susan Blue-Stanton, Jeffery Mayberry, and Mobile Crime Officers Julius Smith and Ralph Nitz. He also praised the superior expertise and testimony by MPD DNA Scientist Laura MacBean. He also commended the work of U.S. Attorney Office employees Paul Howell, Thomas (Ron) Royal, Leif Hickling, and Tracy Van Atta of the Litigation Support Services Unit; Paralegal Alesha Matthews Yette, Victim Advocate Marcia Rinker and Victim Witness Assistant Unit Security Specialist Tanya Via. He further commended Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deborah Sines and Adam Block Schwartz, who investigated, indicted and presented the evidence at trial.