It was June 30, 1989 -- little more than three weeks since Dontay Carter had run from the downtown courthouse. Now he was at the wheel of a vehicle stolen the night before. With him were five others, Damien Daniels among them.
Dontay asked the clerk if he could sign a pledge card for the money, and a state toll-facilities officer was summoned. The officer asked for a license.
"I left it at home," Dontay said.
Inside the plaza office, Dontay gave the officer the name of his half-brother, guessing at Stanley Junior's date of birth. When the officer couldn't find a license in that name, Dontay abruptly declared that another boy was really the driver.
Offering to get the other boy, Dontay went back to van. Suddenly, the group got out and started walking away. All were arrested; the weapons, drugs and credit card were discovered.
"I'm a juvenile, and I know my rights," Dontay told the officer coldly. "Before you even get your paperwork done, I'll be out on the street again."
Baltimore police worked back on the stolen credit card, showing photos of the young men caught in the van to a Johns Hopkins Hospital employee who had been robbed a week earlier on North Wolfe Street. The woman was ordered from her car by a teen-age gunman, who drove away with her purse.
Shown photos from the tunnel arrests, the victim identified Damien Daniels as the gunman who had taken her car. Day Day promptly denied it: "I'm going to tell you the truth," the 15-year-old said in a statement to police. "Dontay Carter did this."
Damien contended that a day after the robbery, Dontay showed him a gold Ford Escort parked on the street. "He told me he stuck someone up and took the car," Damien said.
The officers didn't know whether to believe Damien's account, but it made little difference: When confronted with both suspects, the victim was unable to choose, according to prosecutors.
The robbery probe was dropped, but not the weapons charges from the van. After the tunnel arrest, Dontay stayed with the lie about his identity. Six months later, in a downtown courtroom, he was still holding to the deception. At the sentencing, he listened impassively as his lawyer worked himself into righteous indignation.
Stanley Matthews Jr. has no criminal history, Lawrence W. Shavers told Judge Mitchell. He doesn't know the people in the van. He has nothing to do with this. In fact, he's an excellent student, eligible to play football and, at the same time, studying piano at the Peabody Conservatory. The fiction that Dontay had given to his lawyer seemed a description of the life that could have been.
The prosecutor turned to the defense attorney, suggesting that he talk to the officer who had the fingerprints. Minutes later, the lawyer was back before the bench, apologizing. His client was not Stanley Matthews, but one Dontay Carter. Judge Mitchell, who for years had handled the juvenile caseload, heard the name and looked up suddenly.
"Stand up," the judge said.
Dontay Carter came to his feet.
"I know you," the judge said, staring angrily. Dontay Carter said nothing. There wasn't a hint of embarrassment.
Judge Mitchell recounted the opportunity Dontay had been offered in being sent to one of the best programs for troubled youths.
"As soon as he got back on the street, he's gone," the judge said. "Then, 24 days later he was picked up in possession of a double-blade and a Magnum. He was going to stick up someone. Why he wanted to do it, I don't know."
The judge gave him three years from the date of the June arrest, with another eight suspended -- all in all, a stiff sentence for a first adult charge. Even then, the system gave Dontay a chance, sending him to a youthful offender program at the training center in Hagerstown.
But he had little use for the opportunities at the prison, however limited. He was trained as a sanitation steward, but he quickly lost working privileges in a string of infractions ranging from assault to theft to possession of contraband. Six times, Dontay Carter was sent to segregation -- so often that he spent half his time at Hagerstown in isolation.
But if Dontay's pattern of behavior remained constant in prison, other things changed. Stephen and Clarice Matthews found that out in August 1990, when they visited their grandson.
For an hour, they heard Dontay rush through a monologue on the Black Muslim faith. Night after night, he told them, he listened to cassettes in his cell, tapes that offered not only a message of black unity, but also the suggestion that white people had for too long held down black people.
His grandparents sat in pained silence as Dontay raced through his theology, leaving no time for anything else. He told them proudly he was an assistant minister in his new religion.
"The way he talked was that the people had been deprived of being able to get a good education and deprived of doing a lot of things that they should have been able to do, and that we've been kept down," Mrs. Matthews recalls.