Attorney Warren Brown (left) watches as his client Aaron Parsons,… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
The 20-year-old man charged in connection with the recent assault and robbery in downtown Baltimore of a visitor who was stripped of his clothes was ordered held on $1 million bond Saturday morning, court records show.
Aaron Jacob Parsons of Rosedale turned himself in Friday night after having been linked to the videotaped incident for more than a week, as viewers tracked social media activity that appeared to show his involvement. He has been charged with robbery, assault and other crimes.
The bail was set by a District Court commissioner at his initial appearance, and he will have an opportunity to seek a lower amount at a bail review, likely Monday.
His attorney, Warren Brown, said Parsons is a "good kid," who graduated from parochial school and was raised by his brother after his mother died. Brown said Parsons has no prior arrest record and is not responsible for the acts in the video that drew the most outrage.
"It's not the punch that has aroused so much anger — it's the humiliation after the punch, the disrobing of the guy and going through his pockets," Brown said. "He wasn't involved in any of that and has no real association with those people."
In a television interview, Parsons apologized for his role in the crime but said his recollection of the events were hazy. And despite the apology, Brown said Parsons would be pleading not guilty.
In the video, filmed the night of St. Patrick's Day, the seemingly disoriented victim is standing with a group of young people in front of the east building of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse. As a girl dances against him, a man who police now say is Parsons grabs something out of the victim's pocket. The man moves to recover his property, and the man identified as Parsons rears back and punches him in the face, knocking him to the ground. The victim is then stripped of his clothing and teased.
The humiliation of the victim drew attention to the video — which appeared on websites such as the Drudge Report and Huffington Post, and on CNN — and prompted tips that pointed police to Parsons.
"I think the fact that people from as far away as California chimed in to help out the Baltimore Police Department underscores how heinous this attack was, on a truly unsuspecting victim," said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III urged residents this week not to mischaracterize the Baltimore incident amid other racially charged cases in Florida and Oklahoma, saying there was no indication that the crime — involving black suspects and a white victim — was driven by race.
At least two people recorded the attack and posted it to the Internet. Police are still trying to identify at least three others captured on surveillance cameras.
As the video gained wide attention, police said they weren't sure when the incident occurred and didn't know the identity of the victim. They later were able to connect it to a March 19 report from a 31-year-old man visiting from Virginia, who told police he woke up in his hotel room a day earlier, beaten and bruised, with several items including a watch and his car keys stolen. He did not recall when or where he had been attacked.
But after the video began making the rounds on shock video sites and gaining media attention, police said tips poured in. An anonymous caller told police she knew Parsons from Facebook and Twitter, while an artist and blogger from California, Anthony Mandich, directed police to sleuthing done by Internet users to track screen shots of Parsons' Web activity, officials said.
Police have posted images of three others involved in the incident on the department's Facebook page in hopes of generating tips, continuing the key role social media has played in the evolution of the case — from shock video to criminal charges.
Attempts to reach Parsons since the video surfaced had been unsuccessful. "He's been deluged with threats," Brown said. Parsons' personal information, including phone numbers, his address and e-mail address, were plastered across the Internet.
Brown said Parsons graduated from Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School and has worked multiple jobs, including with FedEx and Ruby Tuesday's, in addition to promoting parties. Some of those expressing disgust with Parsons' depiction in the video were those closest to him, Brown said.
"A lot of people that know him and know the type of person that he is voiced a great deal of disappointment in what they saw," Brown said. "This was not the way he was raised."
Parsons turned himself in about 7:30 p.m. Friday. Police said they had arranged for Parsons to turn himself in earlier Friday, but he taped an interview with WBFF-TV and then failed to appear and could not be located by members of the Warrant Apprehension Task Force.
Police were angered that the station, which it partners with for a weekly segment airing information about fugitives, didn't communicate with them that Parsons was on their premises and said they would be terminating the segment.
Mike Tomko, WBFF's news director, said Parson's attorney told the news station he had been in contact with the state's attorney's office to coordinate his surrender.
"We were told Parsons would turn himself in after making a statement, and we had no reason to believe otherwise," Tomko said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun.
Tomko said a termination of the segment would be "a shame," and that he is "hopeful that when things cool down, we can sit down with police leadership and renew our commitment to helping Baltimore Police keep the city safe."
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