Man guilty in carjack case

SUV taken from mother with two toddlers in back

No verdict on kidnapping counts

Prosecution to seek term of 40 years at sentencing

May 22, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

ROCKVILLE - A Calvert County man was convicted of carjacking and assault yesterday for yanking a mother out of her Mercedes sport utility vehicle last year, driving off in the vehicle - with her two toddlers inside - and leading police on a 90-minute high-speed chase that spanned five Maryland counties.

But a Montgomery County jury failed to reach a verdict on two kidnapping charges, leaving open the possibility that Carl E. Jones Jr. will be retried on those counts.

Jurors deliberated a little more than eight hours over two days before convicting Jones, 32, a Chesapeake Beach resident with a lengthy criminal record that includes 12 convictions.

That some members of the five-man, seven-woman jury had concerns about the kidnapping charges was clear early on. After deliberating barely three hours Thursday, they asked Circuit Judge Louise G. Scrivener to clarify one aspect of the kidnapping charge. Yesterday morning, they asked two more questions about kidnapping. When they passed five hours deliberating, they sent a note saying they reached an "unresolvable impasse" on two of the four charges, a tone that continued in later notes throughout the afternoon. Jurors declined to speak to reporters after the trial.

Jones did not show emotion when the verdict was read. But his lawyers, who had virtually conceded the carjacking and assault counts, said he and they were pleased.

"If the state decides to retry him, we look forward to trial where we can continue to prove his innocence," said Rene Sandler, one of his two lawyers.

The defense was barred from telling jurors they believe that Jones was high on drugs at the time of the chase. "There was never any plan to kidnap these children," said defense lawyer Stephen Mercer.

The carjacking victim, Marna Plaia of Great Falls, Va., wept at the verdict.

Jones could have faced the possibility of a century in prison had he been convicted on all four charges, and he might face more charges in other jurisdictions. Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler said he expects to seek the maximum of 40 years in October, when Jones is to be sentenced.

"The goal is to make sure this man is locked up in a cage so he cannot do what he did to Marna Plaia to anybody else," Gansler said. He said his office will wait to see what the sentence is and speak with Plaia before deciding whether to embark on a retrial on the kidnapping counts.

According to authorities, Baltimore police first saw Jones at the wheel of a stolen Infiniti in West Baltimore about 8 p.m. July 15. They began following him, including by helicopter, as the vehicle reached speeds topping 100 mph. The car was running out of gas on the Capital Beltway, and the driver exited at River Road and abandoned the Infiniti. As Officer Bill Shiflett watched from his helicopter, the man flagged down Plaia, who was returning home from a visit with her parents, about 8:30 p.m., prosecutors said. He pulled her from the SUV and drove off.

Prosecutors said Plaia begged Jones not to take her children, and contended he had to have seen the children - ages 3 years and 18 months - buckled in their car seats. Prosecutors contended it did not matter whether Jones plotted to take the children; that he took a car with children in it was enough.

But the defense argued that Jones wanted the car to evade police and did not know the youngsters were inside. Jones' lawyers told jurors he had neither a motive for nor the intention of kidnapping children. Two of the jury's questions had to do with definitions of kidnapping.

At speeds of up to 130 mph, Jones drove on the Capital Beltway to Interstate 95, then headed north and onto the Baltimore Beltway. Seeing a roadblock, he turned around and headed south again. After eluding roadblock after roadblock, he was stopped on U.S. 50 in Anne Arundel County near Bowie, after he rammed a police cruiser.

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