Jarred Goldman was just along for the ride when an acquaintance stole a 17th century gold bar from a Key West museum, his attorneys told a jury Tuesday.
"He didn't join in any plan to steal it," said Ian McDonald, an assistant federal public defender, in opening statements at U.S. District Court in Key West. "The evidence will show they are not going to be able to prove it."
Goldman is accused of acting as the lookout in the 2010 theft while Richard Steven Johnson broke into a display case at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum and grabbed the bar, which is valued at $550,000.
Johnson has pleaded guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence, but Goldman chose to go to trial. Johnson is not one of the prosecution's six witnesses ready to testify. He is due in court for sentencing July 23.
The case ran cold for almost eight years until an anonymous tip came in that Goldman was connected to the gold bar theft, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Monique Botero.
"He was going to be paid for helping to steal it," Botero told jurors.
But Goldman just hitched a ride with Johnson to go to the Hard Rock Casino near Hollywood to play cards, McDonald said. Just because Goldman is on the museum's security video doesn't prove he was acting as an accomplice in the crime, he added.
"The person who stole the gold bar is Mr. Johnson," McDonald said. "Nowhere in the footage do you see Jarred Goldman acting as a lookout."
Another tip came in that a "tiny, sliver-sized" piece of the bar had been recovered, she said.
While his defenders say nothing links Goldman to a plot for the gold bar heist, prosecutors say Goldman admitted he knew there was a theft that took place.
Goldman identified himself on the museum's security footage that shows Johnson placing the gold bar into his jeans pocket.
The two drove down from Palm Beach County to Key West and then after visiting the museum returned to Palm Beach.
Jurors need to determine whether there is any real evidence that Goldman participated in the heist, defense attorneys said.
"Or is he someone who ended up being stuck at the wrong place at the wrong time definitely with the wrong person," Goldman said.
The trial is expected to last three or four days, according to Judge Jose Martinez.