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Two suspects in a James City County breaking-and-entering case, in which a woman was attacked and firearms were stolen, appeared in court Friday.
One pleaded guilty and testified against his friend who claimed to be innocent of the crime in which both were accused.
Cameron Whitlock, 19, of Newport News, accepted a plea agreement with the prosecution that dropped all but one count each of breaking-and-entering and grand larceny. He pleaded guilty to the two remaining charges in his own hearing at the Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse, but not before testifying against Giovaunie Banton, who was also accused in the November 2014 robbery.
Banton, who is one of three adults and two juveniles charged initially in connection with the incident, pleaded not guilty Friday to two counts of grand larceny and one count each of malicious wounding, larceny of a firearm, breaking-and-entering and conspiracy to commit larceny.
At the conclusion of the trial, Circuit Court Judge Michael McGinty found Banton guilty of all but the breaking-and-entering and conspiracy to commit robbery charges.
The victim, a 58-year-old James City County woman, took the stand to testify she was in her home when a group of four people – one of whom knew her son – entered her home on the 100 block of King William Drive, beat her and stole two firearms that were kept in the house.
She said her son let in an acquaintance, a boy who will not be named because of his age, around 12:30 p.m. Nov. 8.
Whitlock had been traveling with the juvenile, she said. After briefly waiting outside, he came to the door to ask if he could use the bathroom. Her son let him and two others – Banton and another juvenile – into the house.
The victim testified she became uncomfortable with so many unfamiliar people in the house and asked them to leave, at which point she said her son’s acquaintance began saying her son owed him money.
Banton and her son’s acquaintance went upstairs to her bedroom to begin searching for jewels and valuables, she said. It was there she confronted Banton, who then put her in a headlock and began punching her repeatedly, breaking her jaw.
Overcome with emotion as she continued to testify, the victim recalled Banton throwing her to the floor, standing on her and kicking her before he left.
The four individuals took two guns from the home and got in a car driven by Whitlock’s then-wife Jaleshia, who had also been charged in connection with this incident but has since had the charges against her dropped. Jaleshia Whitlock also took the stand to testify for the prosecution.
Jaleshia Whitlock testified the decision to rob the victim’s household was not premeditated. She also said she heard Banton talking about hitting the victim on the car ride back to Newport News that afternoon.
Cameron Whitlock corroborated his ex-wife’s account of the events, confirming the acquaintance of the victim’s son had told him they were going to a friend’s house to get money that was owed to him but there had been no intention ahead of time to commit robbery.
McGinty’s decision to dismiss the conspiracy to commit robbery against Banton was based on the testimony of the Whitlocks. He dismissed the breaking-and-entering charge because Banton was originally invited into the home by the victim’s son.
Despite the argument of Banton’s attorney, Leslie Siman Tov, that it was the juvenile suspect and not her client who punched the victim in the face, McGinty found the victim’s certainty that Banton was her attacker “compelling” and found the defendant guilty of all remaining charges.
Banton was remanded into custody and is now awaiting sentencing.