Shoes are unusual part of settlement in Crofton teen's death

Family of Christopher Jones and all but one defendant settle civil lawsuit

April 28, 2011|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

The parents of a teen killed in Crofton were handed a pair of new athletic shoes Wednesday as part of the settlement of a civil lawsuit over their son's death. The shoes had belonged to a young man who was a defendant in the wrongful-death lawsuit.

"I saw him in brand-new shoes, and I thought he's got a lot of nerve coming in here with brand-new shoes and he's saying he has no money," said Jennifer Adkins, whose 14-year-old son, Christopher Jones, had been riding his bike home when an attack by other youths in May 2009 led to his death.

She suggested, during a settlement conference of the family's civil lawsuit against the six teenagers, that Eric Ali hand over his New Balance shoes.

"I wanted him to walk out of the courthouse in his socks and be embarrassed and humiliated. He can say, 'Chris Jones' mother took the shoes off my feet,'" Adkins said. Her request surprised the retired judge holding the settlement conference, she said.

But soon, the Jones family's lawyer, Richard Jaklitsch, was holding the athletic shoes. "It was the first time in my 28 years of practicing law that this has happened," he said.

Adkins said she didn't know what she'd do with the shoes, but she had a sense of satisfaction from knowing that she left the courthouse with them and Ali did not.

Wednesday's conference produced a settlement with five of the six defendants in the wrongful-death suit, but the terms are confidential.

Michelle Moodispaw, an attorney representing Ali, declined to comment. Ali was not one of the two teenagers charged with manslaughter in Jones' death.

Javel George, who admitted to manslaughter in a juvenile court, is in a youth facility where he could be held until he is 21, and was not part of the civil settlement reached Wednesday, Jaklitsch said.

"We will go to trial. We will get a huge verdict against him, and it won't be collectible. He has no assets," Jaklitsch said. Though a verdict against George would be largely symbolic, Jaklitsch said, it "will prevent him from buying a car, from buying a house. It is not dischargeable under bankruptcy."

The others, he said, were covered under their families' homeowners insurance.

Adkins said she and her former husband, David Jones, are satisfied with the settlement. The couple has been raising funds for a community center in Crofton and working on teen and youth gang violence issues in hopes that they can prevent assaults like the one that led to their son's death.

In addition to George, a younger teen had also entered a plea to manslaughter and is being held in a youth facility. Police said the two teenagers hit Jones.

Others, who were suspected of being part of the group with those two youths, were not believed to have assaulted him and were not charged. The Anne Arundel County school system, which the Jones family alleged failed to protect their son, was dismissed from the case this month.

Jones' death raised concerns about teen gang violence in the suburbs. It also led to a retaliatory firebombing against the wrong person, efforts to build a community center in Crofton and changes in state law aimed at fostering communication between police and school officials about students.

Jones did not belong to a local gang or crew but had friends who were in rival crews.

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