UPPER MARLBORO -- Two men were each sentenced to 13 years in prison yesterday after a Prince George's County judge said he believed their actions were "the spark that ignited the fight that led to the death" of a University of Maryland student last fall.
Last month, a jury acquitted John Ryan Schlamp, 25, and Quan Lewayne Davis, who turns 24 today, of murder in the Nov. 10 death of 20-year-old Brandon James Malstrom, finding the two guilty instead of the lesser charge of riot. Schlamp, of Columbia, was also convicted of second-degree assault, while Davis, of Hanover, was convicted of a weapons charge.
Before sentencing the two, Judge Ronald D. Schiff said he believed Malstrom would still be alive if not for the men's decision to "crash" an off-campus party, held to celebrate College Park's homecoming, and to pick several fights with revelers. Their presence "set the wheels in motion for this horrible crime," Schiff said.
The sentence came at the end of an emotionally charged hearing that featured charges of racism from Davis' attorney, who questioned prosecutors' decision not to pursue a murder indictment against a third man, and tearful remembrances of Malstrom, a Dulaney High School graduate who was studying business at College Park.
"He was my favorite person on this planet," Brandon Malstrom's elder brother, Bill, said as he struggled for composure. Bill Malstrom, 24, was at the party with his brother the night of the fight. "He was probably -- he was definitely -- the one person I truly loved more than myself, and I didn't really realize it until he was gone."
Schlamp and Davis maintained that they had nothing to do with Malstrom's death.
"I pushed him, and I'm guilty of that and will take responsibility," a soft-spoken Schlamp told the judge. "But I can't take responsibility for something I didn't know happened."
Authorities have said Brandon Malstrom's death came after a fight that started when a drunken Schlamp confronted Malstrom in a dispute over a cellular telephone. After police arrived to break up the scuffle, Bill Malstrom found his brother lying in a nearby back yard suffering from a stab wound in his abdomen.
Witnesses told police that they saw Davis with a knife at the party. Malstrom's blood was also found on Davis' pants, according to testimony.
Authorities charged Schlamp and Davis within days and later accused a third man, Robert Allen Fournier, 22, of Columbia, of restraining Malstrom during the fight. Fournier was initially charged with murder, but prosecutors later decided to indict him only for misdemeanor assault, saying they did not have enough evidence to support the more serious charge. His trial is scheduled for October.
That decision drew criticism yesterday from Davis' attorney, Warren A. Brown, who angrily noted during yesterday's 90-minute hearing that Fournier is white while his client is black.
"If, in fact, these young men are guilty, where's Fournier?" he asked. Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey later rejected Brown's allegations, saying he did not know the race of the defendants when deciding whether to indict. Outside the courthouse, Brown said his client, a one-time football player for Oakland Mills High School, is a "good kid" known for "dodging tackles on a football field."
"My client's family felt as though he had been scapegoated from the beginning," he said. Schlamp's father, John Randolph Schlamp, echoed the same sentiment later.
"They want to put my son in jail for 10 years for pushing somebody," he said. "I wanted justice done, and it wasn't done."
But Malstrom's mother, who was critical of what she called Brown' attempt to "retry and retry the case" said no sentence could be enough to make up for the loss of her son.
"I can hardly get through the day," Carol Malstrom said. "I can't believe it's forever."