Evidence slim, teens' lawyers say

Attorneys for two charged in bus beating speak out

December 19, 2007|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporter

Attorneys representing two of the nine juveniles charged in the beating of a bus passenger in Hampden said yesterday that authorities have not presented evidence that shows the teenagers were part of a melee this month that left a woman seriously injured.

"The Baltimore City state's attorney's office has provided me with discovery materials which consist of a police report that can be described as lacking in detail, at best," said Jay M. Ortis, who represents a 14-year-old boy charged in the Dec. 4 attack.

The Maryland Transit Administration police agency, which has jurisdiction on buses, has been working with city prosecutors. MTA police said early in the investigation that they were reviewing the case as a possible racially motivated incident, but have declined to be more specific. All nine suspects are black and the victim is white.

An MTA spokeswoman yesterday declined to comment on the case.

City prosecutors also declined to say whether race was being considered a possible motive in the attack.

The victim, Sarah Kreager, has said she believes that race might have played a part in the attack, but also that events may have spiraled out of control when the youths got caught up in actions of their peers.

The six boys and three girls have been charged as juveniles with assault, though prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine whether any should be charged as adults.

Ortis and Quinton M. Herbert, an attorney who represents a 15-year-old boy charged in the attack, spoke to reporters flanked by the aunt and sister of one of the suspects.

They said the teenagers from Robert Poole Middle School were on a bus with many other students - all of whom were wearing similar school uniforms.

The attorneys said it is possible that others involved in the attack might not have been arrested, and they faulted MTA police and prosecutors for not disclosing more of the evidence that led authorities to charge the two teens they represent.

When asked whether their clients might be willing to cooperate with police to identify the attackers, Ortis and Herbert declined to comment, saying they had not discussed that with their clients.

The attack occurred on a No. 27 MTA bus shortly after it picked up students at the school in Hampden.

According to an MTA police report, Kreager, 26, boarded the bus with her boyfriend, Troy Ennis, 30, and tried to find a seat. Police said students harassed her and would not let her sit down.

Last week, Kreager told The Sun that after she sat down in a seat in the rear of the bus, a teenage girl threatened her and told her that a friend wanted her seat. Fearing for her safety, Kreager said she went to sit with her boyfriend in another part of the bus.

"Couple minutes later, I said they don't got no manners," Ennis said. "The girls heard that. A girl came up and took a swing at us."

Kreager and Ennis said they tried to make their way off the bus, which had stopped. After they got off the bus, they thought they were safe, but the bus didn't pull away - and instead, the teenagers came rushing off the bus after them, they said.

"I heard someone say, `Get her head up,'" Kreager said. "They pulled me by the hair and were saying, `kick that [expletive], kick that [expletive]. ... I was trying to bring my hands up to cover my face, but a boy kicked me in the eye."

The bus driver called police, who arrived and arrested several teenagers.

Kreager, who is in the city's witness protection program, said some of the attackers ran into nearby woods and probably eluded arrest.

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office, said prosecutors will comply with discovery rules and added that her office is bound by law not to discuss criminal allegations involving juveniles.

"We have not commented publicly on the case nor on the evidence nor on the investigation, as it is an ongoing investigation," Burns said. The next court hearing for the nine suspects is scheduled for Jan. 4.

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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