Role In Killing Brings 15 Years

December 20, 1991|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

A 24-year-old Annapolis man was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday for his role in the murder of police informant Sylvester Wayne "Tink" Johnson.

David Marshall "Manzie" Chapman had pleaded guiltythree months ago to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against the man accused of shooting Johnson in exchange for a sentence notto exceed 18 years of actual prison time. County Circuit Judge Martin A. Wolff cited Chapman's cooperation with prosecutors in handing down a lesser sentence.

In asking the judge to sentence Chapman to 12 years, defense attorney James D. McCarthy Jr. said, "This is not the average Clay Streethooligan who comes before the court."

McCarthy described Chapman as a working man, a "man of substance," who overreacted to threats issued by the 22-year-old Johnson the day before the slaying.

"Sylvester Johnson had put the word out on the street he was going to get David Chapman or David Chapman's family," the lawyer said. The day before Johnson's murder, McCarthy added, Johnson and "two thugs" from the U.S. Naval Ship Research and Development Center near Annapolis were"raising a riot" about an unpaid drug debt.

Before being sentenced yesterday, Chapman said, "I can recall back to that night. It was definitely out of my character."

Saying he had sympathy for Johnson's family, Chapman said, "I wish I could bring it all back. I know I wouldn't be taking part in such activities as that."

McCarthy presented a petition in support of Chapman containing 165 signatures.

Wolff said he believed the claims that Chapman's act were out of character and added: "Mr. Johnson is not a very nice person. Still, the bottom line is it's a second-degree murder."

After announcing his sentencing, Wolff rejected a request that Chapman be allowed to spend the holidays with his family before beginning to serve his time.

Wolff said, "Sylvester Johnson's not having a Christmas, and I can't see fit to delay the imposition of sentence."

Chapman, one of four Annapolis men charged in Johnson's slaying, had been set to testify in the trial of co-defendant Howard Eugene "Howdy" Stevens Jr., 24.

Stevens pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder in Johnson's death. He faces a sentence of 15 to 25 years at a hearing scheduled for Jan. 27.

A third co-defendant, Gary Ellis "Peanut" Brown Jr., 21, is scheduled to be tried Feb. 18 for murder. Last month, Brown,in a last-minute change of heart, rejected a plea agreement that would have sent him to prison for no more than 10 years.

The driver of the get-away car used in the murder, Christopher Deon Jones, 22, will likely receive probation at his sentencing, prosecutor Frank Ragione said.

Ragione has said Johnson was killed early last Jan. 14 ashe slept in his yellow 1981 Datsun 280Z in a back alley near an Eastport housing project. Ragione has said Stevens, Chapman and Brown armed themselves and, with Jones driving them, went looking for Johnson.

When they found him, Chapman pumped three shotgun blasts into thecar, but none hit Johnson, according to Ragione. In a statement to police, Stevens said he shot Johnson with a .38-caliber handgun.

Stevens' attorney, William H. Murphy Jr., has said .32-caliber slugs were found in the car. He said Brown was carrying a .32-caliber handgun; witnesses quoted Brown as saying his gun jammed.

Portions of Stevens' court file remain sealed under court order.

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