Police killer's kin pleads guilty in theft He tells investigators his brother masterminded botched bank robbery

August 30, 1997|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

The older brother of convicted police killer Terrence Johnson pleaded guilty Thursday in Harford County Circuit Court to a February armed robbery he told investigators his brother masterminded before killing himself to avoid going back to prison.

Darryl B. Johnson, 36, avoided a possible 115-year sentence by pleading guilty to one count each of robbery, first-degree assault and a handgun violation in return for prosecutors recommending a 50-year sentence with 20 years suspended.

Prosecutors entered into evidence a transcript of a police interview with Johnson in which he said his brother told him how to dress for the robbery Feb. 27 and supplied the gun and 8-inch knife used in the attempt.

"He was telling me what to do, I was scare, but we did it," Johnson wrote in his confession. "We went into the bank and announce it's a hold up my brother went behind the counter to get the lady to put the money in the bag."

The botched robbery of the NationsBank branch in an Aberdeen shopping plaza netted the pair $20,000 but ended a few minutes later when police surrounded them. Terrence Johnson shot himself during the standoff; Darryl surrendered.

Under the plea agreement Johnson, who has been incarcerated at the Harford County Detention Center since the robbery, will be eligible for parole in 15 years. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled before Judge Thomas Marshall on Oct. 14.

Terrence Johnson, who turned 34 the day of the robbery, was paroled amid controversy in 1995 after serving almost 17 years for the slayings of two Prince George's County police officers.

The case touched off racial tensions because Johnson, who was black, alleged that the white officers were beating him while questioning him and that he snatched the gun of one officer and fired because he feared for his life.

Johnson appeared to be getting his life back on track after being paroled, entering the University of the District of Columbia's law school and working as a paralegal. Friends said financial pressures led the younger Johnson to withdraw from law school this year and may have prompted him to rob the bank.

Darryl Johnson -- who lived in South Baltimore at the time of the robbery -- told investigators his brother picked him up the day before the robbery after the elder Johnson got home from his job as a temporary forklift operator at the Sherwin-Williams plant on Hollins Ferry Road.

Johnson said his brother brought him to his Washington apartment where the pair spent the night before the robbery. "We was going to rob a bank for fast money," Johnson wrote. "I took off work today for this."

Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly said he believed the plea agreement was fair. "The guy was caught red-handed with the gun and the money," Cassilly said yesterday.

Calls to Johnson's public defender, Amanda Bull, were not returned.

Charles J. Ware, the lawyer who hired Terrence Johnson and was his mentor, said he spoke last month with Darryl Johnson, who he said has "calmed down" since his arrest. Ware declined to comment on whether he believed Terrence Johnson masterminded the robbery.

"I understand why [Darryl] is doing what he is doing and saying what he is saying," Ware said. "Terrence Johnson will never be convicted of bank robbery because he is dead. Darryl Johnson is alive, and he will have to deal with his circumstances."

Pub Date: 8/30/97

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