Teen gets 15 years in killing at mall

Judge notes that youth was present, but he had no direct role in shooting

Co-defendant got 25-year term

Victim, 18, was ex-wrestler at Owings Mills High

July 24, 2002|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

An 18-year-old Baltimore man was sentenced to 15 years yesterday for his role in the fatal shooting of a former Owings Mills wrestling standout at Owings Mills Mall.

Avion Richard Rodriguez of the 8000 block of Woodgate Court was sentenced after he entered an Alford plea of guilt to first-degree felony murder and a handgun violation in the killing of Kevin Garmzaban on Dec. 18.

The plea means that Rodriguez does not admit guilt, but acknowledges that the state has sufficient evidence to convict him.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge J. Norris Byrnes sentenced Rodriguez to life with all but 15 years suspended after prosecutors recommended the sentence as part of a plea agreement.

Byrnes also agreed to a defense request that he recommend Rodriguez serve his sentence in Patuxent Institution's youth offender program, designed to rehabilitate troubled youths.

Warren Brown, Rodriguez's lawyer, said his client is a native of Trinidad who moved to the United States with his parents a few years ago.

A former junior at Northwestern High School in Baltimore, Rodriguez had a limited role in the killing, cooperated with police and obtained his general equivalency diploma while awaiting trial in the county Detention Center, Brown said.

"I'd ask the court to keep in mind that he's 18 and still has a lot of life ahead of him," Brown said.

In a statement of facts read in court yesterday, Assistant State's Attorney Adam D. Lippe said Garmzaban was with two friends when they were approached by Rodriguez and a co-defendant, Christopher Richard Williams, who said they wanted to buy marijuana.

Garmzaban, 18, agreed to sell them a small amount of marijuana and drove Williams and Rodriguez from the north side of the mall to the south side, where Williams said he kept his car and money, Lippe said.

But after they parked, Williams pulled a .22-caliber handgun and robbed Garmzaban of the marijuana, Lippe said. Garmzaban, a former wrestler at Owings Mills High School, grabbed Williams, began to fight with him and was shot during the struggle, the prosecutor said.

Lippe said that Rodriguez was in the back seat of Garmzaban's car when the fight broke out and fought with Garmzaban's companions who also were in the back seat. When the fight spilled onto the parking lot, Rodriguez kicked Garmzaban as he fought with Williams, Lippe said.

Police found a key chain near the body with a bar-coded tag from a shoe store that identified Williams, police said.

Rodriguez told police that he and Williams went to the mall planning to rob someone that night.

Byrnes sentenced Williams, 16, of the 5700 block of Winner Ave. in Northwest Baltimore, to life with all but 25 years suspended July 10 after he pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder and a handgun violation.

But Byrnes noted yesterday that Rodriguez had no direct role in the shooting, and that neither Williams nor Rodriguez planned to shoot anyone that night.

"This defendant did not have the gun, and this defendant did not pull the trigger, but the law makes him culpable," Byrnes said.

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