A jury last week found a man guilty of robbing a woman at gunpoint in the parking lot of a Stowe restaurant more than five years ago.
Andrew Stewart, 32, of Burlington, was found guilty of one felony count of assault and robbery with a weapon. The jury’s verdict came two and a half years after the Vermont Supreme Court allowed him to withdraw his original guilty plea.
Stewart was convicted of holding a gun to a woman’s head in the parking lot of Sushi Yoshi and stealing her purse, wallet and phone on a snowy February night in 2017.
Stowe police were able to track Stewart down in less than 12 hours, after he left a digital trail of store purchases all the way to his home, at that time in Milton. There, police found the purse and all the items Stewart had purchased with the stolen credit cards.
The victim told police her credit card had been charged $101.12, which police later learned was for a carton of cigarettes. She later told police her bank showed $414 in charges at Staples and $278 at Best Buy. Another $418 was attempted at Hannaford and Walmart, but was blocked.
All five places are near each other in Williston, and all credit card activity at those places happened within 40 minutes.
She also enumerated the value of her purse and its contents — which included two pairs of $800 eyeglasses and an iPhone — at $3,440.
Stewart pleaded guilty in Vermont Superior Court in Hyde Park in October 2017 but two days later entered a motion to withdraw that plea and have his attorney removed from the case, citing an “irreconcilable breakdown in communication” with the attorney.
Superior court judge Thomas Carlson approved the attorney dismissal but denied Stewart’s guilty plea withdrawal and about a year later Stewart was sentenced by a different Lamoille County circuit court judge to serve to 4-10 years in prison.
In the meantime, Stewart had appealed Carlson’s denial to the Supreme Court, which overturned the trial court’s ruling, stating the lower court had “abused its discretion when it denied his motion.”
That Supreme Court decision was issued in December 2019, setting up a do-over of the case, which culminated in last week’s two-day jury trial.
A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled. A felony charge of assault and robbery with a weapon carries a sentence of 1-15 years.