Clash over crab cakes moves to courthouse

Man charged in bloody fight at carryout

March 01, 2007|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun reporter

In the end, neither Jeffrey Rites nor Keith Anthony Rantin Jr. got any of G&M Restaurant and Lounge's famous crab cakes for lunch.

In a scuffle over who was next in line at the Linthicum Heights carryout, Rites was stabbed. Then Rantin was charged. And today, a jury will be asked to sort through the messy saga.

Rantin is on trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, accused of felony assault and three related crimes. Exactly what happened at the restaurant counter - including who started it and who had what weapon - has been the subject of nearly two days of testimony and one video clip.

What was at stake was who would eat first. So coveted are G&M's crab cakes that not only do lines of hungry devotees stretch out the door, but the delicacies can be ordered online and shipped overnight anywhere in the country. Baltimore magazine named them the best in the region in 2004 and 2005, according to the restaurant's Web site.

Assistant State's Attorney Michael Dunty maintains that Rites, 39, of Violetville, responded before Rantin, 31, a Reisterstown barber and home rehabber, when the "who's next?" call went out at lunchtime March 28.

Asserting that Rites was not next, Rantin began arguing, and the confrontation went from words to shoving to the stabbing, the prosecutor said.

Rites had his left wrist slashed and left lung punctured. Employees tried to break up the brawl, and in short order, both men were in the parking lot.

Outside, a Baltimore County rescue crew coming for lunch instead got to take Rites to Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Within days, a warrant was issued for Rantin, who had left while sirens were wailing.

Through his attorney, Kenneth W. Ravenell, Rantin has maintained that he stabbed an over-the-edge Rites in self-defense.

On the witness stand yesterday, Rantin said that when he tried to say that he was really next, Rites responded with profanity and a shove. So he put his keys and cash down and came at Rites.

"I pushed him because he pushed me," Rantin testified on cross-examination.

Rantin testified that he saw Rites reach for his waist. He figured Rites was going to grab a knife - but he did not see one - so Rantin grabbed his own knife from his waist, he said.

"I stuck him first," Rantin said. "He had me pinned up against the case. I was not going down for this guy to stick me."

A restaurant worker recalled a frenzied scene but didn't see a stabbing.

"All of a sudden, there was a commotion," testified carryout manager Pantelis Ieronomahos, who had been at the cash register.

Rites called Rantin "all kinds of names," he said, reluctant to repeat the vulgarities. But Judge William C. Mulford II coaxed the foul language out of him.

Police recovered no knives. Rantin admitted that he threw away his bloody T-shirt and knife when he reached his Baltimore work site.

"I still didn't get lunch," Rantin said.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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