Charges refiled in school shooting

December 15, 2007|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,sun reporter

After the arrest of a long-missing witness in the Randallstown High School shootings, the man accused of bringing the gun to the school that day has been charged with attempted murder in the fight that left one student paralyzed and three others injured.

Antonio R. Jackson, 24, of Owings Mills was ordered held without bail yesterday on an 18-count indictment that charged him with the same crimes that prosecutors dropped in 2005, when they could not find their key witness. Prosecutors vowed then to refile the charges when the witness was found.

That witness, Ronald P. Johnson Jr., was arrested on Thanksgiving Day and was charged last week with obstruction of justice and criminal contempt of court for failing to show up to testify at Jackson's trial.

Asked yesterday by Baltimore County Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Cox whether Jackson had received a copy of the indictment, defense attorney Lawrence B. Rosenberg responded, "I did 3 1/2 years ago. I assume it's pretty similar."

Jackson is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder, five counts of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of first-degree assault and eight handgun crimes.

He is accused of bringing to Randallstown High School the 9 mm semiautomatic Glock pistol used in the shootings, handing it to one of the shooters and driving the black BMW in which the suspects fled.

Jailed for eight months while awaiting trial, Jackson was set free in January 2005 when prosecutors dropped all charges. They say Johnson is the only man who can identify Jackson as the person who brought the handgun to the school that day.

Lawrence, the defense attorney, told the judge yesterday that he does not believe that prosecutors "have sufficient proof to show that" - even with the testimony of Johnson.

Johnson, 23, of Owings Mills, is being held in the Baltimore County Detention Center without bail. A judge ordered that he be kept segregated from the rest of the jail population, court records show.

It's been 3 1/2 years since gunshots rang out in the parking lot of the Randallstown school in May 2004 as a charity basketball game was letting out. Students and staff from Randallstown testified during a six-day trial in November 2004 that the shootings followed a dispute between student Matthew T. McCullough - one of the shooters - and a football player.

When a fistfight on the parking lot turned into a brawl, one man in McCullough's group fired several rounds into the crowd, before handing the gun to McCullough, who continued firing, according to testimony.

Four students were shot, including William Thomas III, who was paralyzed from the waist down after bullets pierced his neck, back and lung.

A Baltimore County judge sentenced the gunman who fired the first few shots to 50 years in prison for attempted second-degree murder and a handgun charge. After a jury acquitted McCullough of attempted-murder charges but convicted him of four counts of first-degree assault in the shootings, the judge sentenced him to 100 years in prison.

Lawyers for McCullough asked a judge this week to grant him a new sentencing hearing, arguing that the prison term was "unconstitutionally disproportionate."

Since being released from jail in the Randallstown case, Jackson was convicted twice in 2005 in Baltimore of drug possession and once in 2006 in Baltimore County of marijuana possession, court records show.

In court filings, county prosecutors involved with the Randallstown shootings cases have characterized Jackson as "a known drug dealer." In asking yesterday that he be held without bail pending trial, prosecutor Karen A. Gibson described him as "not new to the criminal justice system."

Rosenberg countered that his client has never been convicted of a violent crime and certainly could have fled, if he were inclined to do so, in the past three years.

Instead, the defense attorney said, Jackson surrendered to police Wednesday after detectives called his lawyer, who put him in touch with the officers who were closing in.

jennifer.mcmenamin@ baltsun.com

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