Sentence 'appalls' victim's relatives

August 14, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

An article in The Sun Saturday reported incorrectly the length of the suspended prison sentence received by Christopher Suter after he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Baltimore Circuit Court. It was six years.

+ The Sun regrets the errors.

Robert Hooe Sr. and his wife and children can't understand why Robert Hooe Jr.'s killer was sentenced yesterday to 90 days of house arrest and 40 hours of community service.

The Hooe family heard the judge and the prosecutor defend the deal that allowed Christopher Suter to avoid going to jail after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the younger Hooe's death in April.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The family heard Baltimore Assistant State's Attorney Ilene J. Nathan say Suter punched Mr. Hooe just once, that Mr. Hooe's head struck the pavement on South Broadway, and that the 20-year-old Linthicum man died two weeks later of head injuries.

The Hooes heard Ms. Nathan say the fight began after Mr. Hooe and his buddies, out drinking beer and cruising April 9, 1993, called out vulgar catcalls to Suter's teen-age girlfriend. They heard Baltimore Circuit Judge Ellen M. Heller say it was clear Suter responded to the catcalls by approaching the car, but that he did not intend to kill Mr. Hooe.

None of which persuaded the Hooes to support the plea bargain offered by prosecutors.

Mary Alice Hooe, the dead man's sister, said during yesterday's hearing: "I really feel that this person let this get out of hand and maybe didn't intend to kill him but intended to seriously injure him. He's going to stay at home to serve his sentence? I don't agree with that."

Said Robert Hooe Sr.: "I'm appalled."

Suter, 20, of the 200 block of Alletta Ave. in Lansdowne, told the judge, "If I'd have known what was going to happen I would've just kept walking." He turned to the Hooe family and apologized. Then he sat down, placed his head on the trial table and wept.

The defendant's mother cried when she told the Hooes she felt sorry for them because she knows what it's like to feel loss. Her brother was shot dead, she said.

The victim's mother cried when she disputed the report that her son never regained consciousness. She said he found the strength to tell her, "I'm going, Mom." The mother, Ann Hooe, also said, "I don't think the whole truth is here."

Indeed, the whole truth of the events surrounding the death of Robert Hooe seemed to vary from witness to witness. Ms. Nathan said the matter had been fully investigated, and the statement of facts she read to the court to support the involuntary manslaughter charge contained some of the discrepancies among witnesses.

She said Mr. Hooe and his friends had left a Dundalk show bar and were passing through Fells Point when they saw the 16-year-old girl. Their calls to the girl prompted Suter, with another man, to begin banging on their car. Mr. Hooe charged out of the car and was punched by Suter, the prosecutor said. At least one witness said Mr. Hooe threw the first punch and others said Suter also kicked the man while he was down, the prosecutor said. Assault charges against Suter's companion were dismissed, she said.

When taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Mr. Hooe's injuries were not considered life-threatening, Ms. Nathan said. Still, he died April 24, she said.

Judge Heller called the case an "extraordinary tragedy" and imposed sentence -- six months in prison, suspended; 90 days of house arrest, to be monitored by a private company, with work-release privileges; three years' supervised probation; 40 hours of community service; $984.72 in restitution to the victim's family; and $400 in court costs.

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