Laurel man who shot at teens, injuring 3, gets 5 years in prison

Judge gives Powell, 21, a break on mandatory term

March 06, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A 21-year-old Laurel man who fired a gun loaded with hollow-point bullets into a crowd of teen-agers in Columbia last year, injuring three, was sentenced to five years in prison yesterday.

Saying he wanted to give Derek T. Powell a second chance, Judge Dennis M. Sweeney imposed a 25-year prison term, suspending all but five years - a mandatory sentence that, by law, must be served without parole - and placed him on three years' probation.

"It certainly was a senseless act," he said, before noting Powell's youth and lack of a criminal record.

The sentence "is a good baseline to see if Mr. Powell can reform his conduct after that time and get one more chance to prove himself," Sweeney said.

Sweeney, who heard the case instead of a jury, convicted Powell of 10 criminal counts in October - four each for felony assault and reckless endangerment, and two gun charges.

At his trial, Powell admitted that he went to the 10300 block of Daystar Court in Wilde Lake village May 14 with two friends to look for a young man with whom he had an earlier confrontation and fired five shots from a 9mm handgun out the front passenger window of a blue Lincoln.

But he also testified that he wanted only to scare the teen-agers, not hurt them.

Two teens, Ryan Fassett and Wendell Martinez, suffered bullet wounds to their legs. A third teen, Tanelle Mitchell, suffered a graze wound, according to testimony.

The man Powell apparently was looking for, Arnique Douglas, was not injured.

There was no provocation for the shooting, just a feeling that someone had shown him "disrespect," said prosecutor Brendan Clary, who asked Sweeney to impose a prison term above the five to nine years recommended by state sentencing guidelines.

"Although Mr. Powell certainly has expressed remorse ... someone who reacts the way he does with this set of facts has demonstrated, your honor, that he threatens the public safety," Clary said.

But Powell's lawyer, George Petros, said his client has learned from his mistake and changed his attitude.

"There's absolutely no doubt that Mr. Powell recognizes that his conduct was wrong, his thought process was wrong, his reaction was wrong," said Petros, who urged Sweeney "not to throw away the key yet."

Powell apologized to the victims yesterday, saying he knows he did "a wrongful thing."

"I just hope that everyone will be able to move on with their life," he said.

Powell was one of three people charged in the case but the only one convicted.

Teon Nicholson, who drove the Lincoln and testified during Powell's trial, was acquitted in November of being an accessory after the fact to the shooting. And prosecutors dropped charges against Nicholson's cousin and backseat passenger Phillip Nicholson, saying they could not prove that he was involved in "criminal conduct."

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