Youth gets 60 years in armed robbery

April 03, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

His name is Jacoby Bennett but he's better known as "Be-Bop." He weighs in at 120 pounds, he's just turned 17, and he looks as if he rarely, if ever, needs to shave.

Could he really be, as the prosecutor suggested, "irredeemable" and "a little man but a massive threat to the public"? Even the judge described him yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court as "an innocent-enough-looking person."

Minutes later, Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe sentenced Bennett, a youth who apparently has never had much of a home or home life to speak of, to 60 years in prison for his role in the shooting that critically wounded two downtown hot dog vendors last summer.

The prosecutor, Laura Mullally, had called for the maximum sentence: 120 years for armed robbery, conspiracy, a handgun violation and two counts of attempted second-degree murder.

"If this court could put Jacoby Bennett in jail, lock the door and throw away the key, it wouldn't be enough," the prosecutor said. "In my humble opinion, as a prosecu

tor for 10 years, Jacoby Bennett would just as soon shoot you as look at you."

But Bennett said he did not fire the shots that wounded John Trikilis and Mindy Murdza as they worked a sidewalk hot dog stand outside the University of Maryland's downtown medical complex. A jury had found the alleged shooter, Anthony W. Smith, not guilty of attempted murder, a ruling that was described as shocking yesterday by Judge Bothe and lawyers for both sides in the Bennett sentencing hearing.

It certainly did not seem fair to Bennett, who had testified during his trial that Mr. Smith fired the shots. Other witnesses said Bennett, after being knocked down by Mr. Trikilis, urged his accomplice to "shoot him."

"How can I be sentenced for an attempted murder I didn't commit?" Bennett asked the judge. "Robbery, I could understand. Attempted murder, I don't understand. He [the alleged shooter] walked out not guilty."

Bennett then stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans as Judge Bothe imposed her sentence: two 30-year terms, the maximum, on the two counts of attempted second-degree murder, plus concurrent 20-year sentences for armed robbery, conspiracy and a handgun violation.

In announcing her sentence Judge Bothe noted that Bennett seemed to have a way of being around when the bullets start flying -- he was a state's witness in a murder trial over which the judge presided last summer. Looking for reasons, the judge noted that Bennett "has a miserable, unfortunate background," a point stressed by defense attorney Michael D. Montemarano.

"To say my client is irredeemable is ludicrous. The simple fact is he's never had the opportunity to be redeemed," Mr. Montemarano had told the court in asking for a 19-year sentence for Bennett.

After the sentencing, Bennett walked with shoulders slumped as he was led handcuffed and shackled from the courtroom. He is to return to court May 21, when he and Mr. Smith are to stand trial for murder in the July 14, 1992, slaying of Ervin Nathaniel Brown, a 41-year-old middle school teacher shot in the head and chest in his car.

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