Assault trial of former high school wrestling champs delayed

Two charged with beating Navy football players

December 06, 2010|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore judge has postponed the trial of two former state high school wrestling champions from Anne Arundel County who were charged last June with assaulting a pair of Navy football players at an 18-and-over city club.

At a hearing Monday in Baltimore Circuit Court, the attorney for James Patrick Downey III of Linthicum Heights, said his client wasn't ready to go to trial. The prosecutor, meanwhile, asked to have Downey — who also faces two other assault charges — and Louis Patrick Carey tried together.

Judge Barry G. Williams scheduled the case for Feb. 18.

Glen Lazzaro, Downey's attorney, told the judge that he was not finished with his investigation of the incident that began June 4 inside the Bourbon Street Ballroom and continued outside.

Downey and Carey, a former North County High School teammate from Glen Burnie, were charged with two counts of first-degree assault in the incident at the club in the 300 block of Guilford Ave. They allegedly attacked Navy players Keegan Wetzel and Devon Richardson, after Wetzel tried to get the phone number of Downey's girlfriend inside the club.

According to charging documents, Downey and Carey used a combination of "kicks, punches and submission holds" in the brawl. Wetzel, a 6-3, 195-pound backup linebacker and safety, lost a tooth, "possibly" sustained a broken jaw and had both eyes blackened.

Police said that Carey initially hit Wetzel inside the club, a charge that Carey's attorney disputes. Creston P. Smith said that Wetzel confused Downey with his client during the melee.

In a separate case, Downey has been charged with assaulting Connor M. Little, a Towson University student, in November 2009 in a parking lot at M&T Bank Stadium. Little, who came to the defense of a friend who was fighting with Downey, lost four teeth and suffered a broken jaw, according to charging documents. Downey was 17 at the time of both incidents.

That trial has also been pushed back, though no date was given. Little was in court Monday and at one point sat less than three feet away from Downey.

Last month, Downey's attorney tried unsuccessfully to get the charges in the two Baltimore cases moved back to juvenile court.

Downey, a two-time state wrestling champion — first at Loch Raven High School in Baltimore County and later at North County in Anne Arundel — also has been charged with an assault in Anne Arundel in September. He is scheduled to stand trial in that case on Feb. 10.

After his September arrest, Downey was placed on "home teaching" by Anne Arundel school officials who said they were aware of the two Baltimore cases. As a result, Downey can't participate in extracurricular activities. He was the school's starting quarterback at the time of that arrest and was being recruited by a number of schools in football and wrestling.

When Lazzaro argued last month for shifting the city cases to juvenile court, he said the teen's "extraordinarily bright future" would be in jeopardy if he were tried as an adult. Downey was being recruited by several high-profile wrestling programs.

But prosecutor Keri Smolker countered at that hearing, "What services could juvenile services provide to this individual?" The prosecutor pointed to the robbery, theft and second-degree assault charges stemming from an incident in September in which Downey and two others allegedly tried to take a small bag of marijuana from another North County student and then tried not to pay for the drugs.

Williams rejected that request to move the cases to juvenile court. He said he took into account Downey's physical and mental maturity, as well as the September incident in Anne Arundel County.

Carey, who won a state championship in the 189-pound weight class last year as a senior at North County, is a freshman at North Carolina State University and was ready to embark on his first season on the wrestling team when school officials learned of the felony assault charges against him. Carey, who is not on scholarship, was immediately suspended from the team.

Smith asked Monday that Carey be given probation before judgment — a type of plea that eventually could allow for his criminal record to be expunged — but said later that Judge Emmanuel Brown rejected the terms of the probation. Assistant State's Attorney Ben Davis said that a plea deal could not be worked out.

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