Man gets 15-year term in shooting of boy, 4

August 29, 2006|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,SUN REPORTER

A Howard County judge sentenced an 18-year-old Columbia man to 15 years in prison for the shooting of a 4-year-old boy who was hit by a stray bullet this year and for an unrelated sexual offense involving a 13-year-old acquaintance.

Tion Jamaar Bell pleaded guilty to first-degree assault, a handgun charge and a fourth-degree sex offense. Prosecutors dropped attempted first- and second-degree murder charges after Brandon Bonner, who they said was the intended victim of the shooting, could not be found.

According to a statement of facts read by prosecutors yesterday, Bell sprayed 10 bullets between rows of two-story apartments and condominiums across from Long Reach Village Center after he got word of a rumor that Bonner had called him "a snitch."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Tuesday's editions of The Sun omitted the first name of the Howard County Circuit Court judge who sentenced a Columbia man to prison in the shooting of a 4-year-old. The sentence was handed down by Judge Lenore R. Gelfman.

"I've never seen a case so needless," said Colleen McGuinn, assistant state's attorney.

One of the bullets passed through the living room window of 4-year-old Fahad Islam's Columbia home as he sat coloring and became lodged in his brain. Dr. Benjamin Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, removed the bullet the night of the shooting. Islam is scheduled for his second surgery next month to repair his fractured skull, but he was well enough to start kindergarten yesterday.

Howard County police officer Rafeh Shams, an Urdu translator, said Islam has shown no signs of brain damage. His mother, Farida Begum, said through the translator that she was satisfied with the sentence. Bell will not be eligible for parole for 10 years.

Standing in a black shirt and patterned tie, Bell told Gelfman only that he was "very apologetic for what happened to the little boy" and that he "would like to get through this" and on with his life.

State's Attorney Timothy J. McCrone described Bell as a "one-man wrecking crew" and said that his incarceration and those of several of Bell's associates convicted in drug-related crimes are a "sign of progress" for east Columbia.

Because of Bell's age, defense attorney Joe Murtha tried to persuade Gelfman to recommend his client for a state youthful-offender program.

Gelfman rejected that after reading descriptions of more than a dozen infractions for which Bell was cited inside the Howard County Detention Center while awaiting trial. McCrone and detention center director Melanie C. Pereira said the list included exposing himself to a female inmate, trashing his cell, assaulting an inmate, spitting on an inmate, testing positive for marijuana use and cursing at corrections officers.

Given that Bell was facing trial at the time of those infractions, Gelfman said, "you would think he would have put his best foot forward." She said she could not recommend placement in the remediation program until Bell's behavior improved.

In arguing against placement in the program, McGuinn said participants "would not benefit from having someone like that in their program."

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