After twice backing out of deals to plead guilty in the 1989 slayingof former Annapolis High School basketball star Reno T. Green, Wendell Julian Daniels yesterday admitted his role in the murder -- and agreed to testify against his co-defendant.
Daniels, 28, pleaded guilty yesterday in county Circuit Court to a charge of second-degree murder. Under the terms of his plea bargain, he will serve 15 years in prison for the killing.
In April, and again in May, Daniels was brought from the county detention center, where he is being held without bond, to the county courthouse for a scheduled guilty plea hearing. Both times, he backed out at the last minute. After the second hearing, an irritated Circuit Court judge told lawyers for both sides to prepare for a trial because he didn't want to hear any more talk of plea agreements that would fall through.
Assistant State's Attorney Frederick M. Paone saidthe offer Daniels accepted yesterday was identical to offers he turned down the other two times. "I've never had a guy twice falter, if you will, or balk," the prosecutor said.
Attorneys for both sides declined to discuss details of the negotiations, but a July 23 letter from Daniels' lawyer, Roland Walker, to Paone outlined terms of the deal -- and revealed a possible explanation for Daniels' anxiety.
Daniels "is to offer his cooperation in the trial of his co-defendant,John Lee Leonard, and will testify truthfully," according to the letter, which was entered into the court file yesterday. In exchange forDaniels' plea and testimony, prosecutors will recommend a prison term of 15 years and Daniels "will be offered a protective environment, in a federal institution, if possible," according to the letter.
Also, prosecutors will either drop other outstanding charges against Daniels or will recommend that he be allowed to serve any time he receives on those charges concurrently to his sentence on the murder conviction. Daniels was charged with armed robbery in connection with theGreen slaying.
Paone said Daniels also faces unrelated charges, including breaking and entering. His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 6.
Daniels gave a Northwest Washington address in court yesterday despite having a listed address in the 400 block of Broadneck Road, Annapolis.
Leonard, 41, of Annapolis, is scheduled to stand trial Oct. 15 on a charge of first-degree murder. Prosecutors have said theywill seek the death penalty for Leonard if he is convicted.
Both men were charged in the July 8, 1989, slaying of the former basketball star. Green, 21, was shot in the back shortly after midnight near his home.
In a statement of facts read yesterday in court, Paone said Daniels had approached Green and displayed a handgun as part of a robbery attempt, but Green resisted and the two men began struggling.During the struggle, Daniels fired twice, once hitting the ground and once missing Green but hitting a bystander, Paone said.
The prosecutor said Daniels' "partner" in the robbery attempt then stepped forward and shot Green in the back and in the pelvis, killing him within minutes.
Daniels disputed that account on only one point, telling the judge, "Basically, it wasn't a robbery." Walker added: "It was a dispute over a drug debt."