Teens to be tried as adults in beating

Attack at Northern High left student, 15, in a coma

May 02, 2002|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Four teen-agers will be tried as adults in the near-fatal beating of a Northern High School classmate in November, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday.

Defense attorneys had sought to have the four tried as juveniles on charges of attempted murder and assault in the attack on Willis Reese, 15, who remained in a coma for weeks after he was beaten Nov. 10 in front of the school.

The beating became a wake-up call for parents and teachers, who protested chaotic conditions at the school. School officials say they since have taken steps to gain greater control of the students.

If convicted of attempted murder as adults, the four could receive sentences of life in prison.

If they had gone through the juvenile justice system, the four could only have been detained until age 21.

The four youths charged are: Steven McCullough, 17, of the 4200 block of Belmar Ave.; Sean Cox, 16, of the 6100 block of Alta Ave.; Dimitrius Jones, 17, of the 5500 block of Cedonia Ave.; and Keith Rontin, 15, of the 5700 block of Chinquapin Parkway.

Defense attorneys argued to Circuit Judge Marcella A. Holland that their clients were good teen-agers and innocent of the charges.

Margaret A. Mead, who is defending Cox, said testimony will show that he was in his homeroom class when the beating occurred.

Reese, who is recovering from the injuries, was beaten in an apparent gang-related incident that occurred as he got off the bus to walk into the school in the morning. He was attacked, beaten with a baseball bat, and the assailants tried to pull his pants off.

Assistant State's Attorney Rita Wisthoff-Ito said in court that it is not clear what long-term effects Reese may have suffered. But she said Reese has relived the beating many times in his mind as he recovers from the attack, waking up and kicking as though he were trying to fight back.

The teen-agers were to have been tried yesterday, but the trial was delayed until August.

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