Ex-officer is given 50-year sentence

Maximum penalty is ordered for murder of his wife's boyfriend

April 25, 2002|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

Former Baltimore Officer Rodney Price was sentenced yesterday to 50 years in prison for shooting his wife's boyfriend 21 times with his police-issued gun.

The life sentence with all but 50 years suspended was the maximum penalty Price had agreed to under a plea deal. Even so, defense attorney Catherine Flynn lobbied Baltimore Circuit Judge Clifton J. Gordy to impose half that time, arguing that Price, 35, was a good man who simply "snapped" when he emptied his gun into Tristin D. Little Sr., 28. Flynn also suggested the state was being hard on him because he was an officer.

Gordy was unconvinced. "There's a saying that a good lawyer can do everything but change bad facts," he said. The facts added up to a crime that was "heinous, cruel, premeditated, and from the number of shots fired, clearly intentional," he said.

Price, a 13-year veteran of the city Police Department, had pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Little, whom he shot March 16, 2001, outside Little's Northeast Baltimore house.

Prosecutors said Price "sneaked up" on Little as he walked out with Price's wife, and said to him, "Didn't I tell you not to mess with my wife?"

Yesterday Price tearfully apologized to Little's family and to his own large family, which nearly filled the courtroom. Price and his wife are the parents of two young children.

"My heart is just filled with sorrow," he said. "I accept responsibility for it. I acknowledge my fault, I acknowledge my sin."

Price said he could not explain why he had done it. "I just don't understand it. ... All I wanted to do was be a devoted husband and a loving father," he said.

Distraught family members and friends took the witness stand to extol Price's character, noting that about a week before the murder, Price had thrown a surprise birthday party for his wife and given her a BMW. He also had planned a vacation in the Bahamas for her.

A colleague, Officer Angela Boyd, said Price was often exhausted because he worked so much overtime, and she was not surprised about the shooting. "I realized that something was bound to give," she said.

Gordy said he understood why Price was upset: "The solution to your problem was divorce, not murder."

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