Nearly five years after he stabbed three people outside a chicken joint on The Block in Baltimore, Steven James Lashley pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder and two counts of assault, agreeing to a 30-year prison term, with half of the time suspended.
City prosecutors had originally proposed a 25-year deal. They changed the offer shortly before trial, after their reluctant star witness — Felicia "Snoop" Pearson of the Baltimore-based crime drama "The Wire" — vowed to invoke a Fifth Amendment right to not testify if forced to take the stand.
Police claim said Pearson, a crack-addicted baby convicted of second-degree murder as a teenager and given the role of a boyish hitwoman on the HBO series as an adult, was with Lashley the night of the stabbing.
She clearly was not inclined to testify against him. She failed to show up for an earlier 2008 trial date, leading a judge to issue a warrant for police to pick her up, and for police to charge her with marijuana possession after saying they found "plant material" while serving that warrant. Lashley's trial was postponed, as it would be for many more times, and Pearson was found not guilty of the possession charge.
A recent court affidavit suggested that she might testify that the incident, which allegedly occurred after she and Lashley got into an argument with the three victims, was self-defense. But she instead came into Baltimore Circuit Court on Wednesday morning with her attorney, who informed the parties that Pearson would invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if made to testify.
A new plea deal, approved by the two surviving victims, was on the table for Lashley by the afternoon, a half-day before jury selection was set to begin. Court records show that the trial had been postponed 10 times before this.
With his family looking on, Lashley quietly pleaded guilty and listened as Assistant State's Attorney Amy Donze, who planned to prosecute the case with colleague David Grzechowiak, read a statement of facts into the record.
According to a police report, the victims — two brothers and their friend, Stanley Thomas Jr. — exchanged words with Pearson and Lashley inside a New York Fried Chicken restaurant. They had another encounter down the street, and Lashley stabbed all three of them. The brothers survived; Thomas did not.
Lashley's official sentencing was scheduled for June 2 to allow his family and the victims time to prepare statements.
Pearson's attorney, Bradley Goldbloom, said in a telephone interview afterward that his client is "happy that she is out of it at this point."