Family of teen who died after fight outside party sues homeowners

$1.75 million is being sought for wrongful death, suffering

Family of teen who died sues homeowners

Pasadena

October 13, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

The family of a Pasadena teenager filed lawsuits yesterday against two Anne Arundel County homeowners for $1.75 million, seeking compensation for the Northeast High School student's death after a fight outside a party at the couple's house.

The claims, filed in lawsuits on behalf of Noah Jamahl Jones' mother, Robin Jones, and his aunt, Phyllis Jones, with whom he had been living, say that Steve and Evelyn Steinbach of the 700 block of 205th St. in Pasadena failed to "exercise control and supervision of the social gathering taking place on their property."

The women's attorney, Rene Swafford, said she expected the Steinbachs to be served with court papers this week.

Steve Steinbach declined to comment yesterday on the proceedings.

"These parents have a duty to monitor what transpires on their property," said Swafford, who, in preparing the lawsuits, interviewed a number of the Steinbachs' neighbors and their teenage guests. According to Swafford, only the Steinbachs' son was at home at the time of the party.

The lawsuits - one for wrongful death and the other for Jamahl Jones' pain and suffering - come as a county grand jury and federal civil rights officials investigate whether the teen's death after a fight between white and black youths was a hate crime.

Robin and Phyllis Jones contend, among other things, that negligence on the part of the Steinbachs contributed to the 17-year-old's death and that he "sustained severe conscious pain and suffering" between the time he was severely injured and the time he died five hours later.

"Someone has to pay for this," said Robin Jones in an e-mail yesterday.

Robin Jones, who at times has asked whether her son was the victim of a hate crime, said that yesterday's legal actions are not about money but about seeking peace and justice for her family.

"I could really care less about the monetary assets. ... My son's life was taken from him," Jones wrote in the e-mail. "The money is not nearly enough. No amount could be."

The civil suits stem from an incident on the night of July 24, when Jones and two friends went to the Steinbach home. What happened next has for months been a point of contention between some in the local black community, those at the party and those living in Jones' former Green Haven neighborhood.

Although many facts are in dispute, all involved agree that the trio arrived at the party and quickly became involved in a brawl with a group of young men. Police records show that Jones and his friends were badly beaten, and that Jones later succumbed to injuries he sustained during the melee.

Initially, Anne Arundel County police arrested four white men and held them on murder charges in connection with the death of Jones, who was black.

But Jacob Tyler Fortney, Richard Elbert McLeod, Joshua David Bradley and David Michael George were released a short time later when prosecutors dropped the charges against them, citing a preliminary autopsy report that they said revealed that Jones' fatal injuries were consistent with a fall.

The Anne Arundel chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has labeled the incident a hate crime. With pressure from the civil rights group and local politicians, the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into the case last month.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee could not be reached yesterday for comment about the civil case. In the past, he has told The Sun that criminal charges against the four men could be filed or refiled as the case - which is now being heard before a grand jury - moves forward.

Sun staff writer Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.

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