2 accused in I-95 attack on trooper are convicted of attempted murder

March 04, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

Two Baltimore men accused of wrestling a state policeman to the ground along Interstate 95 and taking away the trooper's gun before he was rescued by two passing Howard County officers were convicted of attempted murder in Harford Circuit Court today.

The defendants, Anthony Everette Johnson, 27, of the 800 block of N. Caroline Street and Alvin Jerome Thompson, 41, of the 1900 block of W. Franklin St., sat quietly as the jury of seven men and five women returned guilty verdicts on each after 7 1/2 hours of deliberation in the nine-day trial, which concluded under heavy security shortly before 2 a.m. today.

The jury stopped short of finding the defendants guilty of premeditated attempted murder. Each was convicted of second-degree attempted murder, possession with intent to distribute heroin, and bringing heroin into the state.

Johnson also was convicted of using a handgun in the commission of a felony.

Judge Stephen M. Waldron denied Johnson's request for immediate sentencing and ordered a pre-sentence investigation on each defendant. The judge ordered the men held without bond and set sentencing for April 7.

Testimony at the trial indicated that Johnson and Thompson were speeding south at about 67 mph when TFC John E. Appleby, a six-year veteran of the Special Traffic Interdiction Force assigned to the John F. Kennedy Barracks on I-95 in Cecil County, made what he called a routine traffic stop Oct. 28, 1992.

Trooper Appleby, 26, said that he had stopped a blue Chevrolet pickup truck driven by Johnson near Havre de Grace about two miles south of the Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge at about 1:15 p.m. He said Thompson was a passenger in the pickup.

While obtaining Johnson's driver's license and vehicle registration, the trooper said Johnson appeared agitated and Thompson was bending over, tossing papers from the glove box to the floor of the vehicle.

Trooper Appleby said Thompson told him that the defendants were returning from New York where they had gone to deliver a pit bull terrier.

After he had invited Johnson to sit in his unmarked patrol car, the trooper said Johnson told him that they had been in Salisbury at the Perdue chicken plant that morning.

The inconsistency in their stories plus the demeanor of both men, the trooper said, prompted him to ask Johnson to sign a search and seizure form, allowing him to check the pickup for weapons and drugs.

The trooper said he asked the men to sit on the guardrail while he returned to his vehicle to call for backup assistance.

Later, evidence showed, the trooper reported that he had ordered the driver to lie "down on the floor of the roadway." Thompson, he said, began walking away and he attempted to stop him by grabbing Thompson's arm.

Trooper Appleby said Thompson bear-hugged him and Johnson began pulling at his 9mm Beretta service weapon.

During the ensuing struggle, the trooper said that he managed to grab the weapon already in Johnson's control in such a way that his own thumb kept Johnson from firing it.

At that point, Bruce Lohr and Rodney Stem, police officers from Howard County who were passing by and saw the struggle, stopped and, with guns drawn, helped subdue the defendants and place them under arrest.

Evidence showed Trooper Appleby found 104 grams of heroin worth almost $400,000 in the air cleaner atop the truck's engine.

Richard M. Karceski, the Towson attorney representing both defendants, said the entire stop and ensuing battle did not happen the way Trooper Appleby said.

The defense attorney said his clients "easily could have broken the trooper in half, or taken his gun and shot him, if they really had wanted to."

To demonstrate his point, Mr. Karceski who is about 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs over 200 pounds asked Johnson to pick him up. The defendant who is about 6 feet, 2 inches with a muscular build, did so easily, hoisting the defense lawyer above his head for about 10 seconds to a position that, if he had wanted to, he could have slammed Mr. Karceski to the floor.

The trooper is about 5-foot-8, 160 pounds.

The lawyer said he doubted the trooper was strong enough to keep two burly men from overpowering him.

The defendants testified that they had gone to Riverdale, N.Y., to sell a 5-year-old American pit bull terrier named Sampson to a man called "Pit Bull Sam."

The defendants denied they had given the trooper inconsistent stories. They said that the trooper called them names, ordered them to lie down on the the ground, threatened them and that it was Johnson, not Thompson, who grabbed the trooper after he feared the trooper was going to draw his gun and harm Thompson, his cousin, .

Mr. Karceski concentrated his closing arguments on the issue of reasonable doubt, trying to persuade the jury that missing evidence such as the state police tape recording of the radio transmissions that day might suggest to them that the incident did not happen as Trooper Appleby said.

Prosecutors Gerard S. Comen and H. Scott Lewis, assistant state's attorneys for Harford, called such a suggestion "hogwash."

Mr. Comen asked the jury not to worry about side issues that had little bearing on the real issue: selling 104 grams of heroin meant $399,360 and one expendable state trooper to Johnson and Thompson.

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