A New York teen-ager charged with first-degree murder in the December 1990 slaying of an Arnold high school senior pleaded guilty yesterday to a reduced charge of assault and battery.
County prosecutors allowed the plea in exchange for his testimony against the alleged trigger man.
Jamel Hayes, 18, of Brooklyn, N.Y., had been linked by police to a group of New York drug dealers working in Annapolis. Hayes faces nomore than four years in prison in connection with the death of Darryl Dewayne Downs, an 18-year-old Broadneck High School student who wasfound shot in the back of the head last Dec. 20 in a housing projectoff Forest Drive in Annapolis.
Also charged in the case is Eddie Rivers Jr., 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y. Authorities have identified Rivers as the person who fired the fatal shot.
Assistant State's AttorneyKathleen E. Rogers, who prosecuted the case, explained the decision to reduce the charge against Hayes.
"There were some problems withthe murder case," she said, "and in order to make the case against the actual shooter stronger, we allowed Hayes to plead guilty to assault and battery in exchange for his testimony."
Rogers said two witnesses would have backed Hayes' version of events -- that he and Rivers had fought with Downs but that he was walking away when he heard ashot.
Hayes' trial had been delayed two months ago when a prosecution witness, identified as William Evans, disappeared. Rogers said that Evans would have testified that Hayes was holding Downs when he was shot but that his story had several discrepancies.
The prosecutor also said Hayes' decision to turn himself in two weeks after the slaying and his help in identifying the gunman were factors in the decision to offer the plea bargain.
"We would have never gotten the shooter without him. All we had was an alias, 'Prince from New York,' " Rogers said, adding that Hayes produced a name and an address for the suspect.
In a statement to police, Hayes said he and Rivers confronted the victim over a $500 to $600 drug debt. In court yesterday,Rogers said, Hayes claimed the dispute was over a gun.
Rivers wasbeing held in New York awaiting trial, scheduled for yesterday, on acharge of violation of probation, Rogers said. Once that case is outof the way, she said, officials can begin extradition proceedings tobring him to Maryland by February to stand trial in Downs' death.