By PHILLIP BANTZ
Published: Thursday, July 30, 2009
The attorney for a man accused of impersonating a U.S. marshal while robbing two Chesterfield business owners says his client was only collecting a debt.
Defense attorney Michael D. Hulser of Acworth is arguing that John P. Baldasaro and his alleged victims — Fayyaz Awan, owner of Khyber Convenience Store, and Paula Saba, owner of Big Deal — were not strangers.
“Awan and Saba said they’d never known or seen John before in their lives, that he walked in and fooled them into thinking he was an agent,” Hulser said. “This was not the case.”
Prosecutors say Baldasaro scammed Awan and Saba out of more than $10,860 during a May 11 robbery.
They say Baldasaro convinced the two men that he was investigating a counterfeit cash operation, flashed a holstered gun and a badge, and took money from both stores and emptied Awan’s bank account.
Hulser contends that Awan and Saba owed Baldasaro money, but he would not disclose the nature of the debt.
“It probably wasn’t a debt for Girl Scout cookies, I can tell you that,” Hulser said.
Cheshire County Attorney Peter W. Heed declined to comment on Hulser’s argument.
“The defense is permitted to speak to the press about their theories of the case. We’re under ethical duties not to do so,” he said. “The evidence will speak for itself at the trial.”
Hulser said he has begun plea negotiations with prosecutors and that a deal is already on the table. Hulser and Heed would not discuss the deal.
But Hulser said he will consider any plea deal that sends Baldasaro to prison for less than 10 years.
The deal would also hinge on Baldasaro being able to secure concurrent sentences in his other pending criminal cases in New England, Hulser said.
Baldasaro is accused of posing as a federal agent and robbing a man in Massachusetts. Maine authorities say Baldasaro posed as a businessman and bilked a family out of $7,000 through an investment scheme. He is also accused of stealing an SUV from a dealership in Maine. And he faces a federal parole violation in Vermont.
“We’re searching for a global resolution. I need parole on board. I need any possible warrants from any other states to run concurrent to any possible sentence here in New Hampshire,” Hulser said.
In a jailhouse interview in June, Baldasaro was adamant about representing himself in court.
He said he’d handled his own defense during an armed robbery trial in Boston and a kidnapping and robbery trial in White River Junction, Vt. He was convicted in Vermont and sent to prison for 12 years. He was released in September 2008.
“I can guarantee that this is going to be an interesting trial,” Baldasaro said in the interview. “Him (Heed) and I are going to have a battle.”
Hulser said Baldasaro contacted him on the recommendation of fellow inmates at the Cheshire County jail in Westmoreland and family members.
“I convinced him that you absolutely must have an attorney,” Hulser said.
Hulser was able to argue for a lower bail requirement for Baldasaro during a hearing Wednesday at Cheshire County Superior Court.
Baldasaro was being held on $200,000 cash bail, but now he has the option of surety, meaning he will be released if he pays 10 percent of the total bail amount.
He remained in jail today.