Plea deal spurned brothers to be tried Offer would have let one go free BALTIMORE CITY

October 01, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

Take the deal, said the lawyer to the defendant, and your brother walks.

Gary Ricardo Ward, 22, turned to his teen-age brother, Lamont Desmond Ward. Both stood yesterday at the trial table in a Baltimore courtroom, charged with first-degree murder in last year's slaying of gospel radio personality Alfred Jerome Stewart. Brother stared at brother. Neither said a word.

In the end, Gary "Black" Ward did not accept the plea bargain that would have set his 17-year-old brother free.

"He didn't want to stand up for his brother. Still doesn't want to," prosecutor Jerome Briscoe said, shaking his head.

"He said he didn't do it -- 'It's not my charge,' " said Lamont Ward's disappointed lawyer, Gary Woodruff.

To understand what Gary Ward was turning down, one had to know that the East Baltimore man had been convicted the night before of three counts of attempted second-degree murder for shooting into a crowd outside an East Baltimore nightclub. He could be sentenced to 110 years in that case.

The deal: If Gary Ward would plead guilty to first-degree murder in the slaying of Mr. Stewart, he would receive a life sentence, but any sentence in the nightclub shooting would run concurrently. The state would drop the murder charge against Lamont Ward, along with an obstruction-of-justice charge facing 17-year-old Lester Talley. Moreover, if Gary Ward turned down the deal, he could receive a maximum sentence of life without parole if convicted in the Stewart slaying.

Mr. Briscoe said the offer was unusual in that one defendant had a chance to decide whether another would be released. "But in this case it can be done because we know Gary is the one who pulled the trigger," the prosecutor said.

Mr. Stewart, a morning drive-time disc jockey for gospel radio station WWIN-AM, died after being gunned down Sept. 30, 1992, on an East Baltimore street. The 51-year-old disc jockey was shot several times in the back at Cliftview Avenue and Harford Road. He apparently died with two vials of crack cocaine in his hand, homicide investigators said after the slaying.

Mr. Briscoe said Mr. Stewart and Lamont Ward had argued over drugs, prompting Lamont Ward to bring his older brother in to resolve the matter. Gary Ward then shot Mr. Stewart, the prosecutor said.

Mr. Briscoe said tests showed that hollow-point bullets recovered from Mr. Stewart's body were fired from the same gun that fired the shots that wounded two women and a man in the Sept. 17, 1992, shooting outside a nightclub in the 2200 block of Harford Road.

The prosecutor said the shots were fired from a .357-caliber handgun, but the weapon has not been recovered.

He said the gunman had been denied admission to the club earlier in the evening.

It seemed clear that Gary Ward's lawyer, Rodney M. Gaston, had urged his client to accept the plea bargain. In court yesterday, Mr. Gaston twice asked his client whether he wished to "take advantage" of the state's offer.

Circuit Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe said Gary Ward could consider the offer over a lunch recess that turned into a 2 1/2 -hour break. The Ward brothers and their lawyers huddled in the courtroom, but when the court resumed its session, Gary Ward remained unwilling to make any deals.

"I assume he's fully aware of the consequences, not only to him but to his brother," Judge Bothe said.

"Yes, I'm fully aware," was Gary Ward's reply.

After it became clear that no deal would be struck, the two brothers sat side by side on a bench while the lawyers and the judge discussed when the case would be tried. Gary Ward, who is to be sentenced in the nightclub shooting Nov. 22, whispered something to his younger brother. Lamont Ward stared ahead and scowled.

The trial in the slaying of Mr. Stewart was scheduled for Monday.

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