No remorse, no release, racial attacker is told

April 24, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge yesterday rejected a mentally handicapped man's request for a release from prison saying the man showed no "remorse" for a racially motivated attack that left the victim with brain damage.

Daniel Spencer Porter, 22, was sentenced last April to a five-year prison term for shouting racial epithets during a July 1990 incident in Highlandtown. The victim, Herbert Jennings, a black man, was chased into traffic and fell under the wheels of a truck, suffering brain damage. Porter was convicted of assault, reckless endangerment and racial harassment charges.

Yesterday, Porter and his attorney, Daniel J. Marcus, asked Judge Robert I. H. Hammerman for a sentence modification in light of the defendant's good conduct in prison.

Mr. Marcus also asked the judge to consider Porter's mental condition. Porter is just above the upper limit for mental retardation and has been treated for hyperactivity and psychiatric disorders since he was 6 years old.

But the judge was not swayed.

"I have seen absolutely nothing to show any change of heart whatsoever," Judge Hammerman said of Porter, who sat silent throughout the hearing. "A missing ingredient to me is remorse."

The judge went on to say that, "All that he did cannot just be completely laid off . . . because of his unfortunate background and because he is intellectually limited."

Porter, along with a group of other men, began taunting Mr. Jennings as he walked along Eastern Avenue with his white girlfriend. The men yelled numerous racial slurs at the couple, and Porter began chasing Mr. Jennings, who was then 33.

"When people are filled with venom and hate and then act out, the community must be told that those crimes cannot be treated lightly," Judge Hammerman said.

Mr. Marcus proposed that Porter be taken out of prison and be placed in the city's alternative-sentencing unit, which, through structured checks and balances, allows criminals to re-enter society.

The program would assist Porter in finding a job and would have him on strict probation, Mr. Marcus said.

"I think he's entitled to the chance to prove himself," Mr. Marcus said, noting that Porter has been a model prisoner. "He's a young man and he has the rest of his life ahead of him. The horrible lesson that had to be learned has been learned."

But Assistant State's Attorney Jack I. Lesser opposed release, saying that a psychiatric report on Porter shows that he has tendencies to be impulsive, over-emotional and even explosive.

Judge Hammerman said that while he is still open to sentence-modification requests from Porter, "now is not the proper time."

Mr. Jennings, who attended the hearing, said he was satisfied with the judge's decision.

"He [Porter] shouldn't be on the street," he said, adding: "He hurt me, he might hurt someone else. I still have nightmares about him."

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