A tale of two friends, one killing and a 4-year sentence


November 13, 2008|By PETER HERMANN | PETER HERMANN,peter.hermann@baltsun.com

The formalities of the court were over, decorum maintained.

Beans killed Shrimp, and the judge sentenced him to four years in prison.

Donald Rheubottom, a captain with the Baltimore sheriff's office and the head of Circuit Court security, had successfully kept the two warring families apart - one seeking justice, the other leniency.

It was an accident during a wrestling match between the best of friends in a jail cell they shared at the Baltimore City Detention Center, in a dispute over a Monopoly game. Beans insisted he could borrow money from the bank. Shrimp said he couldn't.

When Davon "Beans" Cole pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter months ago, relatives of Xavier "Shrimp" Tilghman called Cole a murderer, and sheriff's deputies had to restore order.

After yesterday's sentencing, Rheubottom got the shackled Cole out of the courtroom, then his family, and finally Tilghman's relatives, upset that Cole didn't get the maximum 10 years behind bars.

Rheubottom had the family gather against a marble wall. He talked about the death of his brother in a car accident, talked about how hard it is to listen to a killer speak, about the different types of justice. "Don't be bitter about what happened here today," he told them. "This was man-made justice. There is a higher power that oversees us all."

It was a moment that won't be entered in the court record and might not even be remembered over the angry tears.

People kill for all sorts of stupid reasons in Baltimore. Cole and Tilghman had been friends since they were 11. Cole was serving six months for drugs and Tilghman nine months for carrying a concealed weapon.

During the tussle Nov. 19, Cole pulled Tilghman's head back sharply, prosecutors said, and stayed on top of him with his arms locked tightly around his neck, even as other inmates and a corrections officer pleaded with him to stop.

By that time, Tilghman, a 21-year-old father of an infant girl, was unconscious. He died a day later, a death ruled homicide by strangulation. The medical examiner said Tilghman's voice box fractured, blocking his airway and "making it impossible for him to breathe."

The only issue yesterday was how many years Cole should spend in prison. The prosecutor said you have to be held accountable for your actions, even if the result is unforeseeable.

Judge Robert Kershaw handed down his sentence, calling the case a "bizarre and unfortunate occurrence that stretches the ability of this court's resources in rendering a sentence."

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