Knife wielding dope robbers get long prison sentences

Brian Gromoshak, left, and Demetrio Garcia, in a 2009 appearance in Edgartown District Court. — File photo by Steve Myrick

Dukes County Superior Court Associate Justice C.J. Moriarty sentenced Brian Gromoshak, 32, and Demetrio Garcia, 20, convicted yesterday, November 1, of a knifepoint robbery of drugs and cash from an Edgartown house last year, to state prison.

Mr. Gromoshak will serve between 10 and 12 years. Mr. Garcia, his partner in crime, received a sentence of 6 to 8 years.

“Most importantly in this case is the protection of the public,” Judge Moriarty said in his comments from the bench. “This to me is a very serious crime, and I’m very troubled by the nature of it, particularly when it’s cojoined with the horrible records that these defendants have, particularly with Mr. Gromoshak. This was a brazen crime, and really thuggery at its worst, in my view.”

“Because of all this, I think a sentence well in excess of the guidelines is warranted,” Judge Moriarty added. “But not necessarily along the lines of the Commonwealth, which is nearly three times and for Mr. Garica, nearly four times the guidelines, but a substantial sentence nonetheless.”

Laura Marshard, Cape and Island assistant district attorney asked that, based on the level of violence, each man be sentenced to 12 to 18 years. State sentencing guidelines provided 4 to 6 years.

Ms. Marshard reminded the court of Mr. Gromoshak’s extensive criminal record. “Mr. Gromoshak stands before you, your Honor, with an extensive record, with a record out of this court and a record out of Florida, as I’m sure the court is most aware of,” Ms. Marshard said.

“The Commonwealth makes the recommendation for Mr. Garcia and Mr. Gromoshak, based on their records, based on their participation in this case, and as I previously mentioned, trying to balance the fact that Mr. Gromoshak appeared to be what might be termed the principal, with Mr. Garcia’s extensive record in this sort of offense.”

Indictments handed down

The men, both living in Oak Bluffs at the time of their arrests, were previously charged in Edgartown District Court. On January 24, this year, a grand jury indicted the men, shifting the case to Superior Court, where the court could impose more severe sentences. The maximum jail sentence permitted in District Court is 2.5 years.

Mr. Gromoshak, 31 at the time of his arraignment in Superior Court, faced seven separate charges, including armed robbery, assault and battery, breaking and entering, larceny, two counts of intimidation of a witness, and possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Mr. Garcia, 19, faced four charges, including armed robbery, assault and battery with a deadly weapon, breaking and entering, and larceny.

At his arraignment in Edgartown District Court in October, the court set bail for Mr. Gromoshak at $35,000 and bail for Mr. Garcia at $10,000. Both men remained in custody at the Dukes County Jail until their trial this week.

The January 24 indictments stemmed from the October 19, 2011 robbery of three pounds of marijuana and $7,000 in cash.

Knife point threat

According to police reports at the time, the men forced their way into a house off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. Mr. Gromoshak used a knife to threaten the residents.

“During the commission of the crime, one of the perpetrators reportedly held a knife to the throat of the victim and threatened to kill him and his family if he told anybody,” Detective Sgt. Chris Dolby wrote in a news release.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Gromoshak was well known to several Island police departments. He has a criminal record on Martha’s Vineyard and in Florida, where he had lived.

In April, 2009, Mr. Gromoshak pled guilty to breaking and entering, in connection with a series of burglaries at Edgartown houses. According to the police report in that case, he was arrested after investigators matched bootprints found outside houses that were burgled shortly after a snowfall to boots Mr. Gromoshak owned. While executing a search warrant in that case, police found several stolen items in Mr. Gromoshak’s Oak Bluffs house. He served one year of a two-year sentence in the Dukes County House of Correction following that plea agreement and was still on probation for those crimes.

Mr. Garcia is also well known to police. In October 2009, he was sentenced to 2.5 years in the Dukes County House of Correction, after pleading guilty to assault and armed robbery. Mr. Garcia admitted in court that he and a juvenile accomplice robbed an Island taxi driver at knifepoint, after directing him to drive to a remote street in Oak Bluffs.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, he served 1.5 years. The balance of his sentence was suspended for three years of strictly supervised probation and 60 hours of community service.

At the time, William J. Bernard, arrested last week by Oak Bluffs police in connection with a break-in on October 26, owned the Shawmut Avenue house where the two men were arrested, according to assessors’ records.

Always in a jam

While awaiting their trials, the men participated in a poetry writing project in the Dukes County Jail.

Speaking to a reporter about the writing project, Mr. Garcia said, “I feel like we’re better people. Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m in here but that I’m writing in a place I dream about, that I want to be.”

In a poem titled, “Don’t Judge Me” Mr. Garcia wrote about being judged. “Because out of everything I know, this is what I thought/ that chasing happiness and money was the main plot and that God is the only one who can judge you/ But I guess not.”

Mr. Gromoshak said that writing was a means of self-improvement. “I think I’m a better person because I have looked into myself through writing,” he said. “I’ve already put that into motion. I want a peaceful life, not always being in a jam.”

In a poem titled, “Incarcerated,” Mr. Gromoshak wrote, “Sitting, thinking, dreaming about/ All the times when I get out/ Taking a stroll in the breeze or sitting in a swing under a tree/ With the sun on my face and forever forgotten without a trace/ Because, on the beach or in the shade/ Wherever it is, It’s always better than being in this place.”