Estep gets suspended term, probation for his role in 1996 Robinwood fight

July 08, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Vernon E. Estep Jr. was given a two-year suspended prison term and was placed on five years' probation yesterday for his role in a 1996 fight that resulted in an Annapolis police officer wounding Estep and killing Estep's friend.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Clayton Greene Jr. acquitted Estep of the most serious count, assault with intent to murder, but convicted Estep, 22, of common-law assault and battery, and recklessly endangering another person, both misdemeanors. Greene found him not guilty of two other charges during the low-key hearing in which Assistant State's Attorney Warren Davis III read an agreed statement describing the fight. Estep pleaded not guilty.

The hearing made public some details of the 12: 15 a.m. Labor Day fight in the Robinwood public housing community, but shed little light on the fatal shooting of Cochise O. Daughtry, 18, by a city police officer, which led to public protests.The focus was on Estep.

Daughtry's family has filed a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit against the city and the police officer that is scheduled for trial next year. The conviction is expected to clear the way for the city to take a deposition from Estep, which his lawyer said he would agree to do.

Attorney Anthony Covington said his client's account has remained consistent, though the same could not be said of Estep's beating victim, Carlester Jackson, described by Covington and Davis as the "initial aggressor."

A grand jury declined to indict the officer, who also was cleared by an internal investigation.

Under sentencing guidelines, Estep, of the 1100 block of Madison St., could have received up to two years in prison.

"The state's gotten its pound of flesh from the bullet fired by Officer [David] Garcia," Covington said. "Anything the court can impose on him now is nothing more than what he is suffering."

Because of the wound, Estep needs an ostomy bag, probably for the rest of his life. Covington said Estep also needs emotional help because he feels guilt over Daughtry's death.

"He goes through a lot. He has a bag, he has to wake up looking at that every morning," said Sherdina Brooks, 18, Estep's cousin. "Not only are you wounded but you lost your best friend."

Davis told Greene that Garcia saw what looked like two men chasing a third toward woods behind Robinwood, but could not identify the order. Davis said the order was Estep first, followed by Carlester Jackson and Daughtry.

When Garcia rounded the corner, he saw Jackson being beaten, with Estep preparing to smash Jackson with a bottle, Davis said. Covington disagreed that Estep struck Jackson with the bottle. Garcia fired; the circumstances of the shooting remain in question.

What the officer did not see was the first part of the fight, which Jackson instigated and Daughtry broke up, Davis said. Three women in a car who were meeting Daughtry and Estep saw much of that and testified before a grand jury.

"I was just trying to get away from him [Jackson]," a teary-eyed Estep told the judge.

Covington said Estep ran when he saw the police officer, and that Daughtry was not involved in the fight Garcia saw.

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