Threatening letter forces a delay in murder trial

Warning to witness came from defendant, state says

July 13, 2004|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

The murder trial of a former Morgan State University student, scheduled to begin yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court, has been postponed to enable a handwriting expert to review a threatening letter that the man is accused of writing to a potential witness in the case.

Christopher Ahmed Bacote, 19, who had been scheduled to go on trial yesterday in the fatal shooting of another Morgan State student last October outside a Timonium bowling alley, has been charged with obstruction of justice, court records show. An examiner determined that a fingerprint on the letter matched Bacote's, according to charging documents.

The letter warned witnesses not to testify against Bacote, reading, "If I get life, they get death," according to charging documents. The letter, filled with expletives and racial slurs, was signed ONE and included the postscript: "They waiting on my word," according to the charging documents filed July 1 in District Court.

Attorney Margaret Mead, who is representing Bacote, said her client didn't send the letter and is "very upset" about it.

"We believe there is a strong possibility that someone set him up," Mead said yesterday. "He adamantly denies writing this letter. He adamantly denies threatening any witness."

Mead said she requested a postponement in the murder trial to allow a handwriting expert to determine whether Bacote wrote the letter.

As for the fingerprint on the letter, Mead said: "There may be his fingerprint, but anyone could have handed him a piece of paper."

Bacote, of the 5600 block of Laurelton Ave. in Baltimore, is charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 4 death of Lorenzo Monroe Hardy III, a senior from Philadelphia who majored in marketing. Hardy died after being shot once in the chest outside the AMF Timonium Lanes on York Road.

The shooting occurred in the bowling alley parking lot about 2:45 a.m. as Hardy walked with two friends. Students from Morgan and Coppin State University had attended a party at the bowling alley that night, where police say Hardy and Bacote had argued.

Four days after the shooting, Bacote was charged with first-degree murder and held without bail. On Nov. 20 his bail was reduced to $150,000, and he was placed on home detention. Bacote, a West Baltimore resident, transferred from Morgan to a local community college after his arrest last year, Mead said.

After being charged with obstruction of justice, Bacote's bail was revoked, and he is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center, Mead said.

The trial has been rescheduled for Oct. 19.

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