Reputed gang leader faces life in prison after guilty verdict

He was found to have ordered fatal hit on gang member he suspected was gay

May 17, 2010|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

A 23-year-old reputed gang leader could be sent to prison for life, with no chance for parole, when he is sentenced in September for ordering the killing of a fellow gang member, apparently because of his suspicions about the victim's sexual orientation.

After a five-day trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court, Timothy E. Rawlings Jr. was found guilty Friday of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and two hate crimes in the death two years ago of Steven Parrish, 18. Parrish had been stabbed and beaten, a red bandanna left over his face.

Prosecutors said that Rawlings, a leader of the so-called 92 Family Swans, affiliates of the Bloods, had demanded that two other men kill Parrish on May 29, 2008, after they discovered that he had exchanged salacious phone messages with another man.

The two gang members who carried out the hit, Juan L. Flythe and Steven T. Hollis, lured Parrish to a wooded area behind his home on Thornhurst Court in Randallstown and killed him, and then called Rawlings to tell him the deed was done, prosecutors said.

Rawlings believed that Parrish's apparent homosexuality would "make the gang look weak," prosecutors said.

"He wanted to play God for a day," Assistant State's Attorney Allan J. Webster told the jury in his closing argument, referring to the defendant, whose street name is "Hood." "He wanted to make a decision about who lived and who died."

Webster said the red bandanna was placed over Parrish's face "as a sign of disrespect." He said Rawlings "wasn't even sure" whether Parrish was gay.

Rawlings' attorney, Marc E. Mandel, said in his closing remarks that the case against his client resembled the "Salem witch trials" and that Rawlings is "not even in a gang."

"Are we kidding?" Webster asked in his rebuttal. "Do we really believe that for a second?"

In a deal with prosecutors, Flythe, 19, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in an earlier proceeding and was given a life sentence, with all but 40 years suspended. Flythe testified in Rawlings' trial that he is "looking over his shoulder every day" while in prison because he might be considered a "snitch."

Hollis, 20, also pleaded guilty to first-degree murder as his trial was about to begin in February. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors withdrew their request that Hollis be sentenced to life in prison without parole, and instead said they would seek a life sentence, which allows the possibility of parole.

Judge Robert N. Dugan scheduled Rawlings' sentencing for Sept 14. Prosecutors said they will recommend a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

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