Robbery, shooting of teen yields a term of 15 years

Prosecutors, seeking to send tough message, say they are pleased

February 08, 2000|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A 22-year-old Baltimore man was sentenced yesterday to 15 years in prison for his role in the robbery and shooting of a Columbia teen-ager in September 1998.

Maurice Green was convicted in August on assault and robbery charges but was acquitted of attempted murder in the shooting of Raymond Lawson, 18, of Columbia on a footpath in Harper's Choice village.

While acknowledging that Green had strong family support in the courtroom, Howard County Circuit Court Judge Dennis M. Sweeney said the crime was a "substantial violation" of the law.

Prosecutors said they were pleased by the sentence.

"I was asking for a lot more" prison time, said Assistant State's Attorney Debra A. Saltz. "But he got a substantial sentence."

Saltz said the sentence imposed by Sweeney seemed to be striking a balance between the crime and the victim, who "was dealing drugs" at the time.

While testifying at the trial, Lawson admitted that he was carrying crack cocaine to sell at the time of the incident.

During the hearing in Ellicott City, Saltz urged Sweeney to impose a stiff prison term "to send a message to Mr. Green that this will not be tolerated in Howard County."

Green's family and friends who attended yesterday's hearing said they still believe the jury erred in its verdict in August.

"There was no justice when they tried him," said Green's father, Thomas, in an interview. "The court was unfair."

Defense attorney James V. Cunningham urged Sweeney to be lenient on Green, saying that his client "was not a bad person."

Family members testified briefly that Green was a churchgoing man who was considerate and nonviolent. His fiancee, Andrea Thompson, said Green was a responsible man who had helped her buy a house before his arrest in October 1998. Thompson and Green recently had a baby, who also was in the courtroom yesterday.

"He's an excellent person," Thompson said. "He's a good person."

Green's pastor, Martin Jacobs, also testified, saying he has known Green since he was "a small, small kid."

"He was brought up in the church," Jacobs said. "I'm very disturbed and shocked that Maurice was charged with these crimes."

The shooting of Lawson, who has recovered, was the first of two in 24 hours within blocks of the village center and shocked Harper's Choice residents. The defendant in the other shooting was acquitted on all charges in March.

Both cases came to one man's word against another's. Lawson testified that he was hanging out on a foot path about 12: 30 a.m. Sept. 20, 1998, when two men accosted him, one placing a handgun to his head.

He said that after he was pushed off his bicycle and beaten, the men rummaged through his pockets and stole about $100. When Lawson started to get up, the gunman -- described by him as a light-skinned, chubby man -- shot him in the stomach.

Lawson identified Green as one of the robbers but said the other man was holding the gun. Green is the only person who has been charged in the case.

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