Teen gets 65 years for mall shooting

Secret Service agent, youth were injured by 2006 gunfire in Annapolis food court

December 22, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

Reading from a sheet of paper before he was sentenced to a term of 65 years in prison, the teen who brazenly fired a gun inside a packed Annapolis shopping mall last year, striking another teen and a Secret Service agent, apologized yesterday to his victims and the court.

"I'm sorry," said Javaughn Norman Adams, 19, who turned to the agent and spoke directly during his sentencing hearing yesterday morning in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

"I ask you to give me a chance to make up to society for what I have done."

Judge William C. Mulford II imposed a sentence of 100 years with all but 65 suspended - just five years shy of what prosecutors had requested and well above the state's minimum sentencing guidelines, which called for a sentence between seven and 13 years.

The judge added that the sentence is nine times above the bottom of the guidelines and five times above the top.

"This case speaks of tragedy. ... It speaks of lost youth. ... It speaks of a culture of violence. Every time society faces an issue like this, it's a tragedy," Mulford said, calling Adams' conduct "heinous."

Adams was convicted in October on two counts of attempted murder in the Nov. 18, 2006, incident in the Westfield Annapolis mall's food court.

Adams, then 18, shot Tahzay Brown, 16, of Annapolis, in the leg. Secret Service agent Paul Buta, who was off duty and shopping with his family, pulled his service weapon and shot Adams twice.

Buta was wounded once in the leg.

Adams' sentencing comes more than two weeks after a 19-year-old went on a shooting rampage inside a mall in Omaha, Neb., killing eight people and then himself.

The incident attracted national attention and brought to the forefront the issue of mall security.

Buta, in court yesterday with his wife, spoke of the anguishing effect Adams' acts continue to have on his family.

"My little daughter ... she sees people who are dressed like Javaughn and asks, `Daddy, is he going to shoot you?' It's very infuriating to me."

During the weeklong trial earlier this fall, prosecutors argued that the mall shooting was precipitated by a long-brewing battle between two Annapolis neighborhoods: Robinwood, where Adams grew up, and Annapolis Gardens, where Brown spent much of his time.

In appealing for a tough sentence, Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer M. Alexander pointed to what she called Adams' "gang activity," evidenced by what she said were stamps on his arms and hands with phrases such as, "Robinwood Crew" and "Crew love."

The prosecutor added that Adams' nickname, "Pun," has been tagged widely throughout Robinwood and that he has been glorified as a "martyr" for the shootings.

Alexander and Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler, who jointly prosecuted Adams, heralded the sentence, noting that he will not be eligible for parole until he is at least 50.

"I think the defendant, his words were genuine," Alexander said, after the hearing.

"I'm glad he apologized for this heinous, vicious, violent crime. Today was his day of reckoning."

Defense attorneys David P. Putzi and Frank C. Gray Jr. had argued that Adams fired his gun as a last resort to help his friend, who was being beaten by a group of youths.

They vehemently denied that Adams is a gang member.

Adams' attorneys had argued for a sentence of 18 years, slightly above the guidelines - an acknowledgment of the severity of the crime.

"I thought it was a tough sentence for a very bad set of facts ... a sentence that reflects the seriousness of the offense," Gray said. "We're not his apologists. ... We knew that staying within the guidelines was just not going to be a reality."

The lawyers said they had not yet discussed an appeal with their client.

Brown's mother read a victim impact statement from her son, who asked for leniency for Adams. Brown did not attend the hearing.

"Mr. Adams should be given another chance because no one is perfect," she read from the statement.

Adams' uncle and grandmother addressed the court, apologizing directly to Buta, Brown and their families but saying Adams was a high-achieving student who was working hard to weather the influences of his neighborhood - a place where street violence is commonplace.

Dozens of Adams' family members and friends filled the courtroom.

Many of them cried as the judge issued the sentence.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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