Disabled man's attacker gets 1-year term He'll do work release, serve home detention

February 20, 1997|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County circuit judge gave a city man three months on work release and nine months of home detention yesterday for robbing and punching a Towson man in a wheelchair, saying he was "absolutely astonished" the attacker called his victim "a useless parasite."

Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr. sentenced Joseph C. Colwill, 22, to a 10-year term, but suspended all but one year.

Colwill, who lives in Charles Village, will serve the 90 days on work release at the county detention center.

Bollinger's sentence came after pleas for probation from Colwill's lawyer and his mother. They said the young man has had emotional problems and learning disabilities.

Anna Maria Colwill tearfully told the judge, "I don't think he would survive [in the Maryland House of Correction]. He's very fragile. I know you have to do what's just, but I pray to God you can save my child."

Colwill was convicted in December of robbery, assault, battery and theft for an attack in January 1996 on John E. Nolan outside the Towson Commons General Cinema.

Nolan, who has cerebral palsy, used a computer to testify during a trial in November.

Nolan said that after a late-night movie, Colwill grabbed his wallet containing $60 from around his neck, punched him and called him "a useless parasite." Three months later Nolan identified Colwill to police after spotting him at Borders Books & Music in Towson.

Yesterday, after hearing the pleas for leniency from David B. Irwin, Colwill's attorney, Bollinger pronounced: "Ten years in the Department of Correction."

The judge then paused for several seconds.

"I pause so those words could sink in, and be as shocking to you as your words were to Mr. Nolan on that cold January night, which absolutely astonished this court," Bollinger said.

Bollinger then suspended all but one year of the sentence and ordered Colwill to serve five years of probation.

The prosecutor in the case, Mickey J. Norman, had asked for a sentence of 18 months in the county detention center and five years of probation, saying, "We're supposed to protect those people who cannot protect themselves."

Norman told Bollinger that the victim wished for a longer sentence for his attacker than the prosecutor was seeking.

Nolan's "perspective of freedom has changed," said Norman, noting that Nolan enjoyed going to late-night movies in Towson near his home until the attack. Now, Nolan's caretaker refuses to allow him out late at night, Norman said.

Nolan, who attended yesterday's hearing with his family, declined to comment on the sentence.

Irwin, Colwill's lawyer, said, "It was a terrible case. We're delighted the state didn't ask for the Department of Correction, although we were hoping for [only] probation."

Pub Date: 2/20/97

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