A former Randallstown football star who was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty in 2007 to first-degree assault was back in court Thursday, saying he had been duped into making the plea by a "deficient" defense attorney — Kevin B. Kamenetz, now a Baltimore County Council member who is running for county executive.
Wearing leg shackles and a pinstriped suit, Melvin Alaeze, 23, once the nation's top defensive lineman recruit, sat quietly as his new attorney asked Baltimore County Circuit Judge Ruth A. Jakubowski to vacate his plea and grant him a trial.
"It was a plea agreement he did not enter knowingly," said Andrew N. Ucheomumu, who also suggested that Alaeze's ability to make a decision had been impaired by lack of access to his "psychotic medication" while in jail.
The judge heard testimony from Alaeze's mother, a registered nurse, before breaking for lunch. The hearing was to have resumed in the afternoon with testimony from Kamenetz, but word came that Jakubowski had become ill during the break and the hearing was postponed until Oct. 4.
Kamenetz did not return a phone call seeking comment. He was retained by Alaeze's parents shortly after their son's arrest on Jan. 13, 2007, in an incident the previous month at the Brookhaven apartment complex in Randallstown. Princeton Macer told police he had been robbed by two men — one of whom he identified as Alaeze, known to friends as "Gooch" — and then shot in the head, back and near the left eye with a .22-caliber handgun, according to charging documents.
When police pulled over a Pontiac SUV driven by Alaeze, they found behind the driver's seat a revolver with four empty .22-caliber shell casings and a bullet in the chamber, court papers said. Alaeze was carrying a folding knife with a 6-inch blade. He was arrested and held on $500,000 bail.
Alaeze was charged with 11 counts, including attempted first-degree murder, armed robbery and first-degree assault, and Kamenetz negotiated a deal under which his client pleaded guilty only to the assault charge.
But Ucheomumu said in court Thursday that Kamenetz had failed to inform his client "of the nature of the charges" and had made "false promises" to the effect that, if Alaeze pleaded guilty to the single count, he would be sentenced to time served and be released.
"Mr. Kamenetz failed to comprehend that there was no fact to support the element of first-degree assault," Ucheomumu said. "But for the erroneous advice of Mr. Kamenetz, I submit to you that Mr. Alaeze would not be here today."
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