A 27-year-old Georgia man pleaded guilty yesterday to murdering a Meade High School sophomore and fire-bombing her house in November 1989, the same slaying for which his brother was convicted more than two years ago.
James Jackson of Washington, Ga., admitted firing the shots that crashed through the kitchen window of a Pioneer City town house, killing Sun Young Chong, 15, less than two weeks before her mother was to testify against Jackson's brother, Jessie Jackson, on charges that he had assaulted her.
Jessie Jackson, 28, a former stockade guard at Fort Meade, was convicted in April 1990 of the murder, but that conviction was overturned on appeal. Last March, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and arson for his role in the killing.
At his sentencing, he identified his brother as the person who assaulted Sun Chong's mother, Suk Cha Chong. He admitted that he sent his brother to the woman's house to try to talk her out of pressing the charges, but said that the fire-bombing and shooting were not part of the plan.
In court yesterday, James Jackson admitted that he tossed a Molotov cocktail at the front door of the Chong home and fired a shot from a 9mm handgun that killed Sun Young Chong.
At the time, Mrs. Chong was scheduled to testify against Jessie Jackson in a military court on robbery and assault charges stemming from an attack seven months before. Ronald Naditch, assistant state's attorney, said yesterday that Jessie Jackson sent his younger brother to the home, either to frighten Suk Cha Chong, or dissuade her from testifying against his brother.
Mr. Naditch said the evidence against James Jackson included FBI expert testimony that shell casings and bullet fragments would prove that one of the two bullets in the victim's home was from a gun fired at the Jackson home in Georgia.
He also said that Laverne Powell, a friend of the brothers, could testify that she saw the Jacksons together the day of the murder and was told not to tell anyone she had seen James Jackson in the area.
James Jackson declined to comment as he left the courtroom yesterday.
Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. scheduled sentencing for Nov. 16.
Mr. Naditch said he will recommend that Jackson be sentenced to the maximum prison term for the offenses, life plus 30 years.
"He definitely went over to that house with a Molotov cocktail. He definitely fired the shot into that house that killed that girl," he said.
He said that defense attorneys have filed a motion to modify Jessie Jackson's sentence, arguing that it should be reduced since he cooperated with investigators in the murder case. No hearing date has been scheduled on that motion.
The case has a long, twisted history through the courts.
Jessie Jackson was convicted of arson and murder in the killing, despite testimony that he had been in the Fort Meade barracks at the time. He was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison.
But the Court of Special Appeals overturned the convictions and ordered a new trial, ruling that the trial judge incorrectly disallowed evidence that Jessie Jackson had no motive to commit the crime. By the time his retrial began in March 1992, prosecutors had changed their strategy. They conceded that Jessie Jackson did not fire the shots but argued that he had arranged for his brother to do it.
Shortly after Jessie Jackson was sentenced a second time to life plus 30 years last April, county police arrested James Jackson on charges of first-degree murder.