As Expedito "Pedro" Lugo sat in a wheelchair with tears in his eyes, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge accepted guilty pleas yesterday from three teen-agers who nearly beat him to death last spring in Patterson Park.
Two of the defendants, James Holley, 16, and Andre Flythe, 19, pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder and the prosecution recommended 20-year prison terms for them with all but seven to 10 years suspended.
The third attacker, Keith Robinson, 16, who admitted to bludgeoning Mr. Lugo in the head with a wooden baseball bat, pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder. A life sentence with all but 30 years suspended has been recommended for Robinson.
Dressed all in white, Mr. Lugo, who has suffered irreparable brain damage from the attack, wept as a prosecutor recounted the facts of the beating to Judge Elsbeth Bothe.
Mr. Lugo, 24, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, speaks little English and said nothing as he and family members received a sheriffs' escort out of the courthouse.
But Ramona Arias, Mr. Lugo's 25-year-old sister, who does speak English, said later that family members were glad the hearing was over. She said the attackers needed to be punished so they cannot hurt anyone else.
"We just don't want any other people to get hit again by them," Ms. Arias said.
Also appearing in court with Mr. Lugo were three other family members and Mike Murphy, a deacon at St. Francis of Assisi Church who befriended him during his rehabilitation at Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital.
Asked whether her brother was satisfied with yesterday's results, Ms. Arias said: "I don't know, because he's not talking. He's still upset. He remembers what they did to him. When he saw them, he cried."
But even as the guilty pleas were entered, uncertainty remained about what prompted the three youths to attack Mr. Lugo on May 17, when the then-East Baltimore resident seemed to be minding his own business on his way to play baseball.
According to court statements read yesterday, Mr. Lugo was dTC punched by Flythe, picked up and thrown to the ground by Holley, and clubbed at least once -- probably twice -- with his own baseball bat by Robinson.
"There were people there saying, 'Kill him, Kill him.' People were screaming. This was a mob scene," Robinson's attorney, Randolph Gregory, told Judge Bothe. Before passing sentence, it should be acknowledged that "a number of other people were encouraging the attack," Mr. Gregory said.
But Assistant State's Attorney Jack I. Lesser disputed that claim, saying that state witnesses made no mention of mob chanting.
"We don't believe that happened," Mr. Lesser said.
Judge Bothe questioned Mr. Gregory's cheering theory.
"Maybe there were people screaming because they were appalled at what they were seeing," she said.
Holley and Robinson appeared in court yesterday wearing crosses around their necks. They gave only "yes" and "no" answers during the hearing and their families refused to speak about the plea agreement.
Sentencing is set for May 12. Mr. Lugo and several of his family members will make a victim impact statement to Judge Bothe at the hearing.
A police officer found Mr. Lugo "thrashing around in his own blood" after the attack, which occurred around 3 p.m. May 17. A piece of his skull shattered and went into his brain, Mr. Lesser said.
Mr. Lugo nearly died and spent four weeks in a coma at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is now partially paralyzed and his ability to speak and comprehend is impaired.
A doctor who cared for him was prepared to testify that it appeared Mr. Lugo was struck twice by the bat, Mr. Lesser said.
It was Robinson who first approached Mr. Lugo in the park, asking to see his new baseball bat, according to court statements.
Mr. Lugo handed him the bat and Robinson began "playing" with him, acting as though he would not give the bat back, Mr. Lesser said. Mr. Lugo then reached for the bat and Robinson held it in such a way that it appeared he would strike Mr. Lugo.
Flythe came up from behind at that point and punched Mr. Lugo, starting the onslaught, court records said.