Man who tests judge's leniency gets full sentence Gun convictions follow attempted murder BALTIMORE COUNTY

March 03, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

A judge, who in 1991 gave a Pennsylvania man convicted of trying to murder his pregnant girlfriend a break by sentencing him to work release, gave the man the original eight-year sentence yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

The judge also ordered that the sentence be added to a three-year term the man already is serving.

In November 1991, James Thomas "Todd" Cusick, 33, wept and begged and called witnesses to persuade Judge J. William Hinkel to give him a second chance. Yesterday, the courtroom was empty.

"I know I don't have a whole lot of right to ask anything, your honor," Cusick said.

He told the judge about his three children, especially his teen-aged son. He said the boy's "next stop is the Hickey school" and said the child needs a male authority figure.

"I'm not surprised, Mr. Cusick, that your son has problems, [but] you're not the kind of guy who can straighten him out," Judge Hinkel said. "I don't know what else I could have done, and certainly you haven't earned any further leniency from this court."

Judge Hinkel's sentence will run consecutive to three years Cusick received in December. In that case, Cusick was convicted of charges stemming from an October arrest in which he was driving a car full of guns.

Yesterday, Judge Hinkel told Cusick the original sentencing had been "a rare case where the jury recommended leniency."

In May 1991, Cusick was convicted on three counts of attempted second-degree murder, two assaults, and other charges, including possession of a handgun stolen from the Delta, Pa., gun shop where he once worked, said Assistant State's Attorney A. Dean Stocksdale.

Those charges arose from an assault on his then-pregnant girlfriend. The assault occurred on the eve of Valentine's Day 1990. As Cusick banged her head against a car outside Cherry's Inn, in the 21600 block of Middletown Road, a bouncer intervened. Cusick pointed a handgun at the man's head and heart, then fled.

Police later surrounded a trailer in the 21300 block of Millers Mill Road in Freeland and surprised Cusick as he came out carrying a handgun and a shotgun, which officers said he lowered and pointed at them.

He didn't fire, but the officers did, critically wounding Cusick, said Mr. Stocksdale. After the shooting, Cusick was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center and was in serious condition for several weeks.

The resulting health problems apparently led the jury to recommend mercy. Judge Hinkel gave him eight years in prison, suspending all but three.

But Cusick came back to court and argued for a lesser sentence. He cited his health problems, his lack of a criminal record, his two children, the new baby his girlfriend had, a waiting job and character references. He also cited his remorse over what had happened.

In November 1991, the judge further reduced Cusick's sentence, changing it to 18 months on work release from the county jail. Cusick got a job as a farm laborer in northern Baltimore County.

But on Oct. 16, 1992, as he drove to work around 5:30 a.m., a police officer stopped him on York Road near Roundridge Road. His car had a broken headlight. It also contained a small arsenal, including several guns taken in a Harford County burglary.

Police said they found two daggers, a loaded .22-caliber revolver, a .45-caliber semiautomatic Smith & Wesson, a loaded .22-caliber Mossberg rifle, a Marlin 9 mm rifle, a Glenfield .22-caliber rifle, and a 16-inch rifle.

Cusick received a three-year sentence in District Court for charges stemming from that arrest. He appealed his conviction to the Circuit Court.

Yesterday, moments before he was to have faced Judge Hinkel, he dropped the appeal.

However, Judge J. Norris Byrnes, who would have heard the appeal, agreed to a request by Assistant Public Defender Marie Cooke that Cusick be evaluated for admission to the Patuxent Institution. She said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being shot by the police officers.

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