What was to have been the start of a trial for two of four youths charged in a fatally botched robbery of a pizzeria in Glen Burnie took a detour Monday, as one teenager abruptly entered a plea to second-degree murder.
Charles Sequan Butler, 19, of Brooklyn Park, who had been charged with first-degree murder, entered an Alford plea to second-degree murder before Judge J. Michael Wachs, meaning that he did not admit guilt but acknowledged that Anne Arundel County prosecutors had evidence to convict him. He faces the possibility of up to 30 years in prison when sentenced July 20.
That left Shawn "Hawk" Johnson, 19, of Glen Burnie, to stand trial — though jurors do not know that during Butler's plea, prosecutors named Johnson as the second shooter, not Butler, as they had indicated in an earlier case.
Butler is the second of four defendants in the case to stop his trial. The January trial of Vincent Ethan Bunner, then 18, was cut short when Bunner, of Pasadena, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. At the time, prosecutors said Bunner and Butler were the two who were armed with handguns. Misael Flores was killed on Nov. 12, 2010, on the eve of the Glen Burnie man's 21st birthday.
"Things moved in a different direction as we prepared for trial," said Kristin Fleckenstein, spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office.
Butler and Johnson were to have been tried together on first-degree murder charges in the botched robbery at Mr. Wings and Pizza starting Monday. The fourth defendant, Willie Antonio McLean, 20, of Glen Burnie, is expected to testify. He is scheduled for trial in October.
In opening statements Monday, Assistant State's Attorney Christina Ferris did not name Johnson as a shooter. Instead, she reminded jurors of the law.
"Everyone who is present and participating in the robbery is guilty of murder," she said.
But one of Johnson's attorneys, Anthony Mayo, countered that prosecutors have neither scientific evidence nor surveillance footage to tie Johnson to the shooting. He said his client "is not responsible for the death, specifically the shooting, of Mr. Flores."
Prosecutors have said that the four teenagers and their friends plotted the robbery in a friend's family's backyard shed, using two guns from friends' homes. Prosecutors said the four, wearing masks and bandannas, burst in and announced a robbery. But the cashier, at her first day of work, recognized Bunner from school, having once dated him, and thought it was a joke, according to prosecutors. Her longtime friend, Flores, told the four to leave and was gunned down, prosecutors said. The group ran away. Police recovered both guns, prosecutors said.
The trial is expected to continue through the week.
Bunner and Johnson were also charged with first-degree murder of a clerk in an earlier botched robbery. It occurred in August 2010 at a 7-Eleven about a mile from the pizzeria. Bunner pleaded guilty to that one as well. Johnson's trial in the slaying of Youssef Attia, 48, of Glen Burnie, is scheduled for September.