Teen sentenced for two assaults

Sun reporter, 73, and 65-year-old attacked in 2006

April 25, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

With his fists and his boots, in a span of a few hours, a Baltimore teenager changed the lives of two older men - a veteran newspaper reporter who now suffers memory lapses and a man who now is too terrified to leave his house, even to come to court.

Phillip Carter, 19, was sentenced yesterday to 30 years in prison, the maximum possible term under his plea agreement. His attacks, a robbery and a robbery attempt in February 2006 put his victims in Maryland Shock Trauma Center with injuries so severe that their families worried whether they would survive.

Carl Schoettler had been in a fender-bender that Feb. 25 night, at a street corner near the downtown Circuit Courthouse. The 73-year-old was still outside his car when Carter and another man came over from a bus stop.

Carter punched Schoettler from behind, knocking him to the ground. Then he kicked the victim over and over, beating Schoettler unconscious and causing bleeding in his brain. Carter then snatched $100 from Schoettler's front pockets and fled with two other men.

A Sun and Evening Sun journalist for nearly five decades, Schoettler has chronicled the Vietnam War, foreign news and Baltimore life. A son, Jamie Schoettler, said in court yesterday that he "has no equal when it comes to being a champion of the people of Baltimore City."

If it was money that Carter was after, Jamie Schoettler said, "All he had to do was tap my dad on the shoulder."

He returned to his job last summer, but Schoettler hasn't been the same, his sons said yesterday. His memory is fading, he's fatigued and he suffers from headaches.

Another son, Daniel Schoettler, said that the family, too, has been altered: "We're not violent people," he told the judge. Carter "brought out ugliness and hate in our lives."

After the hearing, Carl Schoettler said he was moved by what his sons said about him. He doesn't remember the attack, but he said he was glad that Carter would be taken off the streets.

Just after midnight Feb. 26, 2006, across town on Fulton Avenue, Carter attacked 65-year-old Johnny Johnson. Carter repeatedly tried to grab money from Johnson's pockets as he dealt him punches and kicks that left blood on his boots.

Johnson is so small-framed that a passing officer thought he saw two juveniles roughhousing. "Thank God ... the officer was driving by," said prosecutor Rita Wisthoff-Ito.

Johnson doesn't have much family, Wisthoff-Ito said, only a nephew and a niece who look in on him. Johnson and his family were too afraid of Carter to come to court, Wisthoff-Ito said.

Instead, Johnson sent this four-sentence statement, typed by his niece: "My name is Johnny Johnson. I am a resident of Baltimore City and was a victim of assault by one Mr. Phillip Carter on February 26, 2006 on Fulton Avenue and Baltimore Street. I would like to take a minute to explain to you how this has affected my daily life. As a result of this crime I currently cannot find peaceful sleep and am afraid to walk the streets of our fair city."

Carter was arrested that morning and gave police a statement. On his first trial date, Nov. 27, 2006, he pleaded guilty to robbery, first-degree assault and conspiracy to commit robbery in the Schoettler case and first-degree assault in the Johnson case. Two co-defendants in the Schoettler case are scheduled for trial next month.

His attorney, Jane McGough, said in court yesterday that Carter "has wanted to take responsibility for his actions. He knows what he did was wrong."

McGough described Carter's troubled childhood. From age 6 to 12 he was in foster care "because his mother couldn't cope," she said. At age 13, he was diagnosed with depression and was exhibiting symptoms of bipolar disorder, she said. His father died when he was 16.

As a teenager, the prosecutor said, Carter was arrested seven times, four times in connection with violence. Twice he had been placed on juvenile probation, she said.

Also at age 13, Carter began using drugs and drinking alcohol, eventually drinking a fifth of whiskey a day, according to his defense attorney. On the night of the attacks, McGough said, Carter had been drinking and taking the drug Ecstasy.

Turning to Schoettler and his family yesterday, Carter said he was "sorry for what happened that night. Very sorry."

Before sentencing, Circuit Judge Martin P. Welch said a "failed foster system" and "failed [juvenile] delinquency system" had created "thousands of Phillip Carters in the city."

And Carter, "not an animal, but a badly damaged child," the judge said, had created two more crime victims.


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