Crime Watch


April 24, 2009

Band director pleads guilty in sex abuse case

A Howard County high school band director accused of sexually abusing a female student over two years pleaded guilty Thursday, prosecutors said. Robert Douglas Johnston, 61, who taught at Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City for 35 years, could have been sentenced to a maximum of 25 years in prison in a case that included sexual abuse of a minor. Under his plea agreement, he could face a maximum of 18 months at his sentencing Aug. 13, said Wayne Kirwan, a county state's attorney's spokesman. Johnston was arrested in December after the school's principal received an e-mail that included copies of personal messages between Johnston and the student. In interviews with police, Johnston denied having inappropriate contact with the student, saying the two had an "uncle/niece" relationship, according to court documents. The student initially denied an inappropriate relationship but eventually told police that the two had a romantic relationship that included fondling, hugging and kissing in the school's band room. Johnston had been suspended with pay since Dec. 8 and is now listed as on leave without pay, said county schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan.

John-John Williams IV

Internet sting results in solicitation charge

A Howard County man who investigators allege had been making plans online to have sex with someone he thought was a 13-year-old girl was arrested Wednesday and charged with solicitation of a minor, according to the Maryland State Police. Robert A. Prall, 28, of the 6200 block of Sandrise Court in Elkridge was charged with one count. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Police said an investigation began in late February, when a trooper assigned to the Computer Crimes Unit and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force posted a classified ad on a Web site. The online identity indicated the person was a girl. Within days, a reply was received from someone who identified himself as a 28-year-old man from Elkridge. During the next two months, online conversations took place between the man and the trooper posing as the girl. Most of the conversations had sexual overtones or were discussions of the two meeting for sex, police said. In the interim, investigators say they identified the adult as Prall. Through e-mail and text messaging, the man made arrangements to meet Wednesday the person he thought was the girl in Columbia and take her to his home for sex, police said. When he arrived at the meeting place shortly before 4:30 p.m., he was arrested.

Man is fatally shot in apartment stairwell

A man was shot shortly before 9 a.m. Thursday in a stairwell in his apartment complex in East Baltimore. The man, whom police did not identify, was taken to a hospital. He died later Thursday, police said. The shooting occurred between the second and third floors of the Bond Street Apartments, in the 1600 block of E. Eager St. A bullet hole in a second-floor window could be seen from the street, and a bullet was found in a car across the road. About 10 a.m., a woman's screams about losing "my baby" echoed from the building and across the street. Police identified the woman as the victim's wife.

Gus Sentementes

Man shows gun while under restraint order

A 38-year-old Carroll County man pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm while he had a restraining order against him, the Maryland U.S. attorney's office announced Thursday. The crime was discovered after prosecutors were tipped off that Antoin Jerrold Newman had posted pictures of himself holding guns on his MySpace page. Newman, who has a prior handgun conviction, was arrested and charged last year with assaulting his ex-wife. A protective order was issued against him; that and the earlier conviction prohibited him from owning firearms. But federal agents said they found images of him online posing with weapons, at times wearing a black ski mask, and a caption under one photo that said "something for my ex." Agents recovered two rifles from his home. Newman faces a maximum of 10 years in prison; sentencing is scheduled for July 9.

Tricia Bishop

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