An Orangeburg man who was arrested last week in the shooting of a DEA agent during a federal raid at his house was denied bond Monday afternoon.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Paige Gossett said Joel Robinson, 32, represented a danger to the community and ordered him held until his trial. No trial date has been set.
Ordinarily, law enforcement raids on houses – federal agents were seeking evidence of drug trafficking by Robinson, according to court records – attract little attention.
But in this case, a federal agent was shot and the defendant’s lawyer – Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland – is saying that his client is innocent because he was defending his home, located in a rural area about five miles west of Orangeburg.
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An indication of the public interest in the case came Monday afternoon, when more than 30 of Robinson’s relatives and friends showed up at the hearing at the federal courthouse in Columbia. So did more than 25 DEA and other federal agents, including many who participated in the predawn federal raid in which agents were searching for evidence of illegal drugs.
The gunshot wound to 17-year DEA veteran Barry Wilson, who was struck in the right arm, was potentially life-threatening, FBI Agent Rob Wayzenhofer testified during the 35-minute hearing.
Wilson, who was airlifted to Palmetto Health Richland after being shot, has not returned to work and is recuperating, authorities said after the hearing.
During the hearing, Todd Rutherford, Robinson’s defense attorney, urged Gossett to dismiss the charges against Robinson and argued that, in any case, Robinson should be allowed out on bond.
Robinson was roused from his bed around 6 a.m. Oct. 20, heard banging and “did what exactly what most people would do,” Rutherford told the judge.
Robinson, believing he was in danger, grabbed a gun and ran out the back door, with “absolutely no clothes on,” Rutherford said.
“The government needs to show he did something ... other than defend his home,” Rutherford said.
But the FBI’s Wayzenhofer said there was no way Robinson would not have known law enforcement agents were not outside – with agents wearing clearly-marked police vests surrounding the house yelling “Police” and blue lights and sirens flashing.
“It looked like the Fifth Army was out there,” Wayzenhofer said under cross-examination by Rutherford.
Rutherford shot back, “I imagine after he (Wilson) got shot, it did.”
Wayzenhofer testified that Robinson fired at least six times with a .45 Taurus handgun, and there is no doubt that one of the rounds struck Wilson.
Curtis Shepherd, Robinson’s next-door neighbor, said he has known Robinson for 13 years and he has never caused Shepherd any trouble.
“He has no felonies and no convictions,” Shepherd said. “He’s never had parties and isn’t running around causing trouble. Nothing.”
According to court records, law enforcement officials believed Robinson, along with other individuals, “maintained an ongoing PCP manufacturing operation for a number of years,” the complaint said. PCP, popularly known as “angel dust,” produces a mind-and-body intoxication, and its use can cause severe psychological problems.
In the hearing, Rutherford also stressed that Robinson has no criminal record, has a concealed weapons permit and dropped his weapon as soon as he realized law enforcement officers were in his backyard. “Our sympathy goes out to the federal agent who was shot,” Rutherford said later, saying his client had no intention of shooting a federal agent.
Under federal law, a person who shoots a federal officer – even if by mistake – is guilty of assaulting a federal officer. The crime carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.
“I know we’ve got an uphill battle,” Rutherford said later Monday, “but all my battles are uphill.” Rutherford is something of a specialist in self-defense and “stand your ground” cases, representing people who have shot others and claim it was self-defense.
The local U.S. Attorney’s office is recused in the case to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Michael Herskowitz, a deputy U.S. attorney from Atlanta who specializes in naracotics and organized crime, is handling the case.