2 men present at fatal brawl arrested on gun charges

Shepherd, Harris were friends of teen who died

Pasadena

February 23, 2005|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Two friends of Noah Jamahl Jones, the teenager who died in a brawl near his Pasadena home last summer, have been arrested on charges that they brought weapons with them to a Pasadena house where the fatal fight took place.

Marion James Shepherd, 20, one of three men who went with Jones uninvited to the party, was arrested late Monday afternoon in Baltimore County on two outstanding warrants charging him with gun, assault and drug violations. Anne Arundel County District Judge Megan B. Johnson yesterday increased his bail to $60,000.

Also yesterday afternoon, Tormarco Santonio Harris, 19, turned himself in to Anne Arundel County police on a charge of possessing a stun gun on the night of the party. He was released on personal recognizance. Harris and another youth had also gone with Jones to the July 24 party.

The arrests followed newspaper reports last week disclosing secret grand jury testimony in the cases of six men charged with manslaughter in Jones' death, including that Shepherd and Harris had brought weapons to the party. The Sun also reported last week that Shepherd had not been arrested on an outstanding warrant after police, according court records, found drugs on him while he was being treated for injuries from the fight.

Defense attorneys for some of the six men said the arrests underscored their long-standing contention that Jones and his friends were party crashers who showed up ready to fight. There has been no allegation that Jones had a weapon.

Prosecutors maintain that Jones died of head injuries suffered during an altercation with the six men.

The six charged with killing Jones are Joshua David Bradley, 20; Scott E. Burton Jr., 19; Gregory M. Florentino, 21; and Jacob Tyler Fortney, 19, all of Pasadena; David Michael George, 20, of Glen Burnie; and Richard Elbert McLeod, 18, of Chestertown. Their trial is scheduled for May.

According to Shepherd's grand jury testimony, he and his friends went to a Pasadena home where they believed a friend was in danger. Shepherd admitted bringing a handgun but maintained it was not loaded, and said that Harris was carrying a stun gun.

Jones was black, as are his friends, and the six men charged in his death are white. Although there have been allegations that the dispute was racially tinged, the grand jury did not charge a hate crime.

"Excellent. They should have been arrested a long time ago. It's fascinating - this again just corroborates what my client has been saying all along," said Richard Finci, a lawyer for Bradley.

Shepherd was charged in a Feb. 10 warrant with transporting a gun, possessing a gun with the serial number obliterated, and the second-degree assault of Michael Steinbach, whose father owns the house where the fight broke out, prosecutors said.

The judge increased the bail for those charges from $5,000 at the time of his arrest to $50,000 after a prosecutor said that Shepherd had a different handgun with its serial number erased when arrested Monday and that Baltimore County authorities are expected to file charges for that.

Judge Johnson also increased Shepherd's bail on the drug charge from $2,500 at the time of his arrest to $10,000.

Anne Arundel County police said Shepherd had three vials of suspected cocaine on him when he was treated at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center after the brawl. That warrant was issued immediately but not served. Last week, prosecutors said they did not serve the drug warrant when Shepherd appeared before the grand jury last year because they were treating Shepherd as a witness and not a possible defendant, but that they had recently been looking for him.

Assistant State's Attorney Michael R. Cogan argued in court that Shepherd "had a loaded Glock handgun" without a serial number when arrested Monday.

"That gun was not mine," Shepherd retorted in a video appearance from the county jail. " I never told them that was my gun. My fingerprints were not on that gun."

Cogan also said Shepherd lacked a fixed address and a job.

Shepherd said he was trying to land a job with the Coast Guard.

Frank C. Gray Jr., a lawyer for Steinbach and his family, said his clients were pleased Shepherd had been arrested.

"They are glad to see that the true story of what happened and who was really responsible for the altercation is finally coming out," Gray said.

Robin Jones, the victim's mother, said she did not think the arrests of Harris and Shepherd would hurt the case against the six men charged in her son's death.

Prosecutors also are asking Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck to issue a gag order, complaining that a leak of sealed grand jury testimony resulted in a lengthy article about the case in The Capital newspaper last week.

Defense lawyers have not received that motion yet.

Finci said he would comply with whatever the court orders.

But George S. Lantzas, attorney for one of the other manslaughter defendants, said he may oppose restrictions on what he can say about the case.

Sun staff writer Sarah Schaffer contributed to this article.

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