Murder suspect charged with soliciting killing of witnesses

Sun Staff

Jailed and awaiting trial on armed robbery and attempted murder charges, a19-year-old Middle River man is facing new charges that he arranged to havetwo witnesses in that case killed.

Joshua Anthony Mumford was arrested Monday night and charged with twocounts of soliciting first-degree murder, court records show. Police persuadedMumford's cellmate at the Baltimore County Detention Center to wear a digitalrecording device, which captured Mumford refusing suggestions that thewitnesses could be kidnapped and held for a while rather than killed,according to court documents.

"Mumford declines, saying that the state will only postpone the case andwill charge him again after the witnesses return," Baltimore County policewrote in the statement of charges filed in District Court. "He reiterates thathe wants the witnesses murdered."

The two witnesses, 19-year-old Ramin Atri and 20-year-old Kosmas Koukoulis,were shot - allegedly by Mumford - on Oct. 21 in White Marsh when Mumfordtried to steal money and four pounds of marijuana from the men, whom he hadmet earlier that night, court records state. They were expected to testify atthe Feb. 28 trial of Mumford and two co-defendants - Angelo L. Mumford, 21,and Dustin C. Fifer, 21, both of Middle River.

"I'm shocked and I'm worried," said Atri's mother, who asked that her namenot be published for fear that her family might be harmed. "I don't know ifthey'll shoot me or my family."

The arrest is the most recent example of what county prosecutors say is anincrease in attempts to interfere with witness testimony in Baltimore Countycriminal cases.

"It is my experience that traditionally we have not had a problem withwitness intimidation in Baltimore County," said Jason G. League, an assistantBaltimore County state's attorney. "However, times are a-changin'."

League prosecuted a murder case last year in which the defendant,Christopher A. Bacote, was accused of threatening witnesses. Charges ofobstruction of justice were dropped, however, when Bacote pleaded guilty tofirst-degree murder and a handgun charge for fatally shooting a Morgan State University student after a college party in October 2003 at a Timonium bowlingalley.

Bacote, 20, of Baltimore was sentenced in November to 50 years in prison.

Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy has said that witnessintimidation is a part of nearly all her office's homicide cases. BaltimoreMayor Martin O'Malley identified witness intimidation as a major public safetyissue in his State of the City address this week. And recent high-profileinstances of intimidation - including the firebombing of the home of a womanwho called police about drug dealing in her neighborhood, and a locallyproduced DVD called Stop Snitching that warns crime witnesses to keep theirmouths shut - have helped give the issue new urgency.

At least three witness-intimidation bills are being considered by theGeneral Assembly, including a measure proposed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.that would permit some statements by intimidated witnesses to be used in courteven if the witnesses are not present. The bill also would increase themaximum penalty for witness intimidation to 20 years in prison.

Joshua Mumford, charged in the solicitation-for-murder case in BaltimoreCounty, faces up to life in prison if convicted.

His alleged plans for the witnesses in his court case first came toauthorities' attention Jan. 18 through Mumford's cellmate at the BaltimoreCounty Detention Center, according to charging documents. The cellmate toldpolice that Mumford said he wanted to have the two witnesses killed and askedhim whether he "has someone who can take care of something like that," courtrecords show.

At the detectives' request, the cellmate agreed to wear a digital recorderto the detention center and resume his conversation with Mumford, chargingdocuments show.

According to the documents, Mumford told his cellmate "that he has noconscience and will not regret the killing." During the conversation, thecellmate made a phone call and had Mumford talk to a county homicide detectivewho posed as someone named "KC" and talked to Mumford about getting "thepayment for this contract murder," according to court records.

When Mumford could not make arrangements for the $1,500 payment, he agreedin a conversation taped Jan. 24 "to kill anyone for [the cellmate] or hisfriends when he gets out of jail," according to court documents.

A Baltimore County District Court judge ordered yesterday that Mumford, whohad been held in lieu of $250,000 bail, be held without bail on the newcharges.

Correction: A headline yesterday incorrectly described the initial charge against a Middle River man who, according to court records, has additionally been charged with two counts of soliciting first-degree murder. The man was initially charged with attempted murder.

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