Defense says drug use makes witness' testimony unreliable

Baltimore man died after deal went wrong, Arundel prosecutors say

June 03, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The envelope was supposed to contain $3,600, cash, to buy 4 ounces of cocaine.

Instead, it apparently held a $10 bill, four singles and 61 currency-size clippings from an Avon magazine.

The deal, on a dead-end street in the Heritage Hill section of Glen Burnie, ended abruptly with Howard W. Anthony Jr., the supposed buyer, shot dead in the car of his friend who arranged the deal.

Who killed Anthony, a 25-year-old Baltimore man, around 10: 50 p.m. on Sept. 15, 1998, has been the subject of a weeklong trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Leshon C. Ruffin, 22, of the 6400 block of Lamplighter Ridge in Glen Burnie, is being tried on a charge of first-degree murder and six related charges. On the witness stand Tuesday, Ruffin, who has a 1996 felony drug possession conviction, denied a role in the fatal shooting.

His attorney, John Robinson III, argued that police did a sloppy investigation and were quick to believe the changing stories of felon James C. Patrick Jr., an admitted longtime drug user, hustler and drug dealer.

Corey Sykes, the Glen Burnie man Patrick was rumored to have ripped off in a drug deal a few weeks earlier, would have made a better suspect, Robinson said. Sykes, subpoenaed for the trial, failed to appear, and a warrant was issued for him last week.

Ruffin said he was playing Nintendo games and drinking beer at a friend's house the night of the slaying. No way, Assistant State's Attorney M. Virginia Miles said in closing remarks yesterday.

"There is too much evidence in this case that the defense has to explain away or wish away, and it can't," she told Judge Michael E. Loney, who is hearing the case without a jury.

Loney expects to issue a verdict Monday.

Much of the prosecution's case has been built around Patrick, 25, who won immunity from his legal woes -- among them a probation violation and illegally possessing a handgun as a felon -- in exchange for testimony. Some of his statements to police, a grand jury and in court have contradicted each other and statements by people in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred.

Last week, in crude and colorful language, he testified that he'd had several business dealings with Ruffin, all involving drugs, men's watches and stereos, some of the merchandise stolen.

In September, he said, Ruffin wanted to sell him drugs. His friend, Anthony, coincidentally wanted to buy drugs. Patrick said he brought Anthony along without telling Ruffin ahead of time. He got lost driving around Heritage Hills.

A phone call later, he located Ruffin. They met, Ruffin got in the car, and they pulled onto a street. Anthony gave Ruffin a bill, and Ruffin got out of the car, ostensibly to get the drugs. When Ruffin returned to the passenger side of the car, Patrick said, the deal rapidly deteriorated.

"As I was bent over, I heard Howie say, `He's got a gun,' " Patrick testified. The gun was pointed at Anthony, as Ruffin demanded the money.

"I started flipping out. I said, `What the -- are you doing, Shon?' " he said. "I was screaming."

His friend tossed the money out of the car, but also pulled a gun from his waistband. The gun, Patrick said, was the one he'd recently sold to Anthony. He'd told the unsuspecting Baltimore man who sold it to him to report it stolen.

Patrick said he did not watch what happened, but heard a few shots. Anthony was bleeding and Ruffin, he said, "just jogged down the street." Patrick floored the gas pedal, threw the gun into the woods, and took off for a gas station.

He did not tell police the whole truth about what happened, he said, because he was scared. He changed his story, mostly as it relates to Anthony's gun, several times.

Miles, in closing remarks, said that what matters is that Ruffin's alibi witnesses, his mother and his friend, were lying. Ruffin's fingerprints were on Patrick's car -- though whether he touched the car that day or two days earlier has been a point of contention. She said for someone who lacked a steady job, Ruffin carried a lot of cash.

Robinson countered that Ruffin did not match the description of the person given by witnesses who saw the first part of the deal.

Patrick said Ruffin was wearing a camouflage jacket zipped to his chin and a skullcap. No witness described a camouflage jacket. Instead, they spoke of a baseball cap with the brim in back, which Miles said would look from the front like a skullcap.

"Recall, the state's star witness smokes weed and takes Percocet," Robinson said, adding that Patrick admitted that the drugs play games with his memory and that he would do anything to stay out of jail.

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