Charles A. Frock told a Carroll County judge yesterday that he was frightened March 15 when a man came to his home and beat him for a $15 debt, but should have let police handle the matter, instead of chasing the suspect into downtown Westminster with his deer rifle.
The jury that heard Frock's case in August agreed, convicting him of first-degree assault on Eric G. Webb, 31, of Manchester, and reckless endangerment.
Sentencing guidelines call for 18 to 25 years in the state prison system for Frock, according to Assistant State's Attorney Tom Rafter of Howard County. He handled the case because a potential witness works in the Carroll County prosecutor's office.
Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold gave Frock a break, imposing a 14-year term but suspending all but 18 months, which Frock will fTC be allowed to serve under work-release at the Carroll County Detention Center.
"I think the jury reached the correct verdict," said Arnold, who said he "wrestled" with a proper sentence. "What started out to be the victim became the aggressor."
Noting Frock's small size, Arnold said people less than 5 feet 9 inches tall know about bullies, and the victim was "a self-confessed bully."
Frock, 32, exercises and trains race horses for about six horse farms in Carroll and Baltimore counties and Pennsylvania, and at Pimlico Race Course. He rises about 4 a.m. and works six or seven days a week to support his wife and four children, according to testimony.
Defense attorney Richard M. Karceski called several of the farm owners to testify at the sentencing hearing and presented letters from other employers, who praised Frock as hard-working and reliable.
Rafter argued that Frock had plenty of time to think about what he did. "I could just as easily be here because of the murder of Mr. Webb," Rafter said.
Frock and a neighbor drove about six miles from their homes outside Westminster, Rafter said, catching up to Webb and another man at Liberty and Green streets. Frock fired the shot about 6 p.m. with bystanders in the area.
Frock said wounding Webb was a fluke: He had aimed through his rifle scope into the rear tire of his assailant's car, but the bullet ricocheted up through the bottom of the car.
His neighbor and close friend, Wilson Harry Blizzard Jr., 28, also was charged in the assault, but died Sept. 21 when he was struck by lightning while pitching horseshoes with Frock and others in his yard.
Trial testimony included allegations that Webb's visit involved drugs, but Frock said after the sentencing that Webb's visit involved a $15 debt for sawdust for the horse stables. Frock and his wife allowed police to search their home for drugs, they said.
Webb -- who had been drinking, according to testimony -- broke two bones in Frock's chest that resulted in his hospitalization, Frock said.
Although he told his wife to call police, he said he also got his $1,200 .35-caliber Marlin rifle with a $400 scope, and his neighbor Blizzard -- and took off after Webb and the other man.
Webb later sought help at the Westminster police station, saying he had been shot in the hip while in his car. He was flown by helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was treated and released.
Webb was not in court yesterday, where Frock had about a dozen family members and employers.
The family had celebrated Thanksgiving on Monday in anticipation of Frock's going to prison, but Arnold granted Karceski's request that Frock be allowed to surrender Friday morning and spend the holiday with his family.
Pub Date: 11/25/98