Brown Pleads Guilty As Accessory To Informant's Murder

February 21, 1992|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

"Peanut" Brown, the one who never fired a shot, seemed dazed by the turn of events.

For months, he'd refused to accept a plea bargain that carried the possibility of a 10-year sentence in the murder of police informant Sylvester Wayne "Tink" Johnson.

He'd already seen a co-defendant -- the man who fired the shots that killed Johnson last year -- sentenced to 10 years.

Johnson chose to take his chances at trial, where a conviction for first-degree murder would mean a mandatory life sentence.

And with the jury claiming to be hung -- 8-to-4 in favor of acquittal -- Gary Ellis Brown Jr., 21, stood before a judge, his voice soft and a little unsteady, pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact.

He faces no more than five years in prison at his sentencing, set for April 3.

With the plea, Brown, described in court as a drug dealer, becomes the fourth Annapolis man convicted in the Jan. 14, 1991, murder of Johnson, a 22-year-old described in court as a drug dealer.

Prosecutors have said Johnson was hunted down and shot dead as he slept in hiscar in a back alley near an Eastport housing project.

Earlier this month, Howard Eugene "Howdy" Stevens Jr. received a 20-year sentence, with 10 years suspended, for firing the shots that killed Johnson.

Prosecutors allowed Stevens, 25, to plead guilty to second-degreemurder rather than risk allowing a judge to make a pretrial ruling that could have crippled their case.

David Marshall "Manzie" Chapman, 24, who pleaded guilty to

second-degree murder in Johnson's slaying, was sentenced in December to 15 years in prison.

And 22-year-old Christopher Deon Jones, who admitted driving the getaway car after the slaying and agreed to testify against his co-defendants, has not been sentenced.

Jones fulfilled his end of the deal, testifyingfor the prosecution in Brown's two-day trial, which began Tuesday. But while a jury deliberated Brown's fate yesterday, Jones mingled with Brown and his friends.

Asked for his reaction after Brown pleaded guilty to the lesser charge, Jones said: "I don't even think he should have gotten that. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Peanut wasn't trying to kill anybody."

Prosecutors told the jurythat Brown, part of a plot to kill Johnson, calmly ate a hot dog on his way to the murder scene, only to have his gun jam as Stevens and Chapman fired away.

Defense lawyers argued that Brown had no idea the other two men were planning to kill Johnson, and that he said thegun jammed only to save face in front of his friends.

Carroll L. McCabe, one of two assistant public defenders representing Brown, asked the all-white jury to look at the situation from the perspective of young black males living in public housing projects, where threats and violence are a way of life and guns are a part of the wardrobe.

McCabe told the jury that Brown had become involved in a dispute between Johnson and Clyde Boardley, an Annapolis man described as a drug dealer, over the poor quality of cocaine Johnson was peddling.

Describing Johnson's threats to burn down or shoot up Brown'saunt's house, the defense lawyer asked: "What does he do? Sit in his aunt's house and wait for them to throw a (Molotov) cocktail through the window or spray the house and pull a Joan Rivers and say, 'Can we talk?' "

After deliberating for two and a half hours, the jury sent Judge Bruce C. Williams a note saying they had decided Brown was not guiltyof first-degree murder but were split, 8-4, on the question of second-degree murder.

McCabe said she left the decision to accept the plea offer up to Brown. She agreed that a conviction on second-degree murder would have exposed Brown to no more than 10 years in prison --terms identical to an offer he turned down in November.

But she pointed out that a mistrial granted due to a hung jury would have again exposed Brown to a first-degree murder charge and a possible life sentence.

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