Sands is found guilty of gun, drug charges

21-year-old accused in recent string of crimes

2nd conviction in 4 months

Jailed since January in fatal-shooting case

Columbia

October 04, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Tavon Donya Sands, a Columbia man accused in a string of crimes, including the high-profile death of a computer student this year, was convicted yesterday of drug and gun charges stemming from the first of the cases filed against him.

A Howard County jury took about three hours yesterday to return guilty verdicts against Sands, 21, for cocaine possession and two separate handgun charges related to a traffic stop in May last year. That incident preceded his arrest in an attempted-murder case and was followed a few months later by arrests on charges of gun possession and armed robbery.

Sands, who was repeatedly released on bond, has been in jail since late January, when he was charged with murder in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old DeShawn Anthony Wallace during a botched robbery in Columbia's Oakland Mills village, a crime highlighted by police officials, who said it pointed to a failure of the justice system.

In an August interview critical of the county state's attorney's office, Howard Police Chief Wayne Livesay pointed to the delay in trying this week's case and said that "had that been prosecuted, [the homicide] might have been avoided."

Court records show that Sands' defense lawyer at the time of the Jan. 25 homicide had asked the court in December to postpone the May 2001 drug and gun case because, she wrote, she was "attempting to work this case out with other cases" charged against her client.

Yesterday's conviction is Sands' second in five crimes he has been accused of committing in the county during an eight-month period while he was on probation.

The Columbia man was convicted of an October 2001 armed robbery in June and is scheduled to be sentenced in that case Thursday. He has also been acquitted of a gun charge related to a September 2001 traffic stop. The attempted murder and murder cases are pending. The attempted murder is alleged to have occurred in May last year.

As a result of yesterday's conviction, Sands faces a maximum four-year jail term for the drug conviction and additional time for the gun convictions at his Dec. 19 sentencing before Howard Circuit Judge Lenore R. Gelfman.

According to testimony this week, Howard County police, who initially pulled Sands over on Harpers Farm Road in Columbia's Harpers Choice village for a broken headlight, found cocaine in his boot and two loaded guns - a .44-caliber Magnum revolver and a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol - in the trunk.

Sands later told detectives he had put the word out on the street that he needed guns because he was having trouble with some people and a man agreed to meet him covertly to sell him the two weapons, according to testimony.

Sands' lawyer, Denis Charlesworth, pointed to what he said were discrepancies in police reports and testimony and said the case amounted to "police overreaching."

Prosecutor Kim Oldham told jurors the case was clear-cut. "Short of [the drugs] being taped to his forehead, it doesn't get any stronger than that," she said.

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