Gun, drug charges dropped against twins

Teens still face charges in burning of dog

March 25, 2010|By Tricia Bishop | tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

Baltimore prosecutors dropped gun and drug charges Wednesday against teenage twins, hours after a judge acquitted their father of similar charges stemming from the same search and seizure.

Brothers Tremayne and Travers Johnson, who turned 18 last month, still face animal cruelty and mutilation charges in a separate case accusing them of setting fire to a pit bull puppy, which rescue workers later named Phoenix.

The dog's injuries drew nationwide attention and outrage, with people calling for tougher penalties in animal cruelty cases and donating more than $25,000 to a reward fund to help catch the perpetrators. Phoenix, which was doused in gasoline and set aflame, had to be euthanized.

The Johnson brothers have pleaded not guilty in that case. Their trial was postponed to June 30, shortly before the gun, marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia charges against them were dropped.

"We're folding; we give up," Assistant State's Attorney Janet Hankin told Travers Johnson's defense lawyer just before the teens' joint trial was set to begin.

Their 76-year-old father, Charles Johnson, was acquitted of similar charges in a separate trial Wednesday morning before Baltimore City Circuit Judge Gale E. Rasin.

Police searching the Johnsons' Pulaski Street rowhouse in June as part of the Phoenix investigation said they found a revolver hidden in a rain boot, along with a digital scale and a small amount of marijuana. All three men were eventually charged with their possession.

But prosecutors failed to prove the elder Johnson knew about the gun, much less owned it, Rasin said. Based on that decision, and an evidentiary ruling by the judge, prosecutors dropped the cases against the twins as well.

"There's insufficient evidence," Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Rallo said, dropping the case before police could escort the brothers into the courtroom.

Michael Marr, Travers Johnson's attorney, said he was disappointed by the decision.

"We would have loved to have gone to trial today," he said.

Charles Johnson declined to comment after the hearing, saying he had nothing to say "until my boys come home."

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