Plea-bargain sentence too light, judge says

June 29, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

A plea agreement that would have led to a six-month jail sentence for a 22-year-old Easton man involved in the death of a homeless alcoholic fell apart yesterday when an Anne Arundel Circuit judge decided the sentence was too light.

Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. said that being an accessory after the fact in July 1992 called for a stiffer sentence than the six-month maximum negotiated for Willis Lewin Usilton in the death of Arch Baldwin, who was beaten and harassed shortly before he died. Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler said that means he either will try to find a judge who will accept the plea or take the case to trial.

Mr. Usilton and Christian M. Walton, of Annapolis, testified against Adam Schlossman and Theodore Reshetiloff, also of Annapolis, who were convicted of manslaughter in the case by Judge Heller.

Shortly after they testified, the two entered conditional guilty pleas to being accessories after the fact to manslaughter. But they said they would withdraw the pleas if they were sentenced to more than six months in jail.

Judge Heller made it clear when he accepted the pleas that he would agree only if he found the sentences acceptable after reviewing presentence reports and other matters. Yesterday, he said that he could not accept the six-month cap in Mr. Usilton's case. After a hearing, he said he would pronounce sentence on Mr. Walton July 6.

According to testimony, Mr. Baldwin, a 62-year-old homeless Army veteran, was harassed by Schlossman and Reshetiloff in the hours just before he died.

They poured beer on the victim, threw debris at him and pushed him into a wooded gully in some woods off the first block of Jefferson Place in Annapolis, according to testimony.

When they found him dead the next day, the two co-defendants along with Mr. Usilton and Mr. Walton buried the body in a shallow grave, where it was found nine months later. According to testimony, Mr. Usilton assisted only in the burial and Mr. Walton served as a lookout. Schlossman and Reshetiloff were sentenced to 18 months' work release in the county jail and five years' supervised probation.

Judge Heller said the crime to which Mr. Usilton would plead guilty called for more than six months in jail, another year under house arrest, four years' supervised probation and 520 hours of community service that the lawyers agreed to.

Mr. Usilton's lawyer, Joel Katz, said his client was forced to withdraw his plea agreement because his terms were no longer available.

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