A Baltimore County Circuit Court jury on Wednesday found Frank Williams, 32, and William Ward III, 45, guilty on counts of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and use of a handgun in commission of a felony for their roles in the December 2011 murder of 19-year-old Rodney Pridget outside Towson Town Center mall.
"We're really pleased with the result," State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger said after the verdict. "We are going to seek life without parole for both of them. We believe that these are two very dangerous individuals. When you have the power to order a hit like this, I think that shows how dangerous they are."
Deputy State's Attorney Robin Coffin, who prosecuted the case, declined after the verdict to discuss specifics of the case, citing the pending case against the accused shooter, Tyrone Brown, 20 of Baltimore, who is also charged with first-degree murder and other charges.
Brown's trial had initially been scheduled to start Sept. 11, but yesterday was postponed sometime in until 2013.
Both Coffin and Shellenberger did, however, commend the Baltimore County Police Department for presenting what they said was a strong case.
"The police department were outstanding in a very, very difficult case," Coffin said. "Extraordinary, extraordinary work by the police department."
Coffin also commended the jury, who deliberated for more than 15 hours on the case.
Over four days of testimony, Coffin laid out a case that included cell phone records, hours of surveillance videos and testimony from one of Ward and Williams' alleged co-conspirators, Jermell Brandon. Brandon, 35 of Baltimore, was also charged with first-degree murder, but took a federal plea deal that will limit him to no more than 20 years in prison for his cooperation in the case.
Brandon said he had spotted Pridget at the Towson mall on Dec. 19, 2011, and immediately called Williams, who earlier that month had "ordered the hit" against Pridget.
Over the next hour, as security cameras showed Pridget eating dinner and shopping through the mall, Williams, Ward, Brown and a fourth man, Lionel Goods, drove to Towson from Baltimore City.
Facts of the case showed that Williams and Ward joined Brandon in following Pridget, and after Ward placed a call to Brown's phone, the alleged gunman walked from the Macy's garage to the Nordstrom exit. Soon afterward, Pridget, who had been at the mall with his girlfriend, Nautica Reynolds, was dead — shot six times.
Though Williams and Ward did not pull the trigger, they were exposed to first-degree murder charges because prosecutors believed their actions aided and abetted the premeditated murder of Pridget.
Brandon had testified that Williams and Ward were leaders of the Black Guerrilla Family gang, with Williams' holding a position of power within his neighborhood and Ward holding a city-wide leadership role. Brandon said Brown committed the crime to enhance his standing in the gang.
A portion of Wednesday's verdict was hinted to in a note Judge Robert Cahill received from the jury just before he ended deliberations Tuesday night around 10 p.m. The note indicated that the jury had reached guilty verdicts on the conspiracy and handgun counts, but were stuck on the first-degree murder. The note did not distinguish between the charges for Ward and Williams.
Coffin indicated Tuesday night that she would take a split verdict, but Hoss Parvizian and Josh Insley, who represented Williams, and Michelle Moodispaw, attorney for Ward, asked Cahill to remind the jury that they were tasked with finding verdicts for each man individually for each count charged.
Cahill issued that reminder Wednesday morning, and the third day of deliberations began at 9:45 a.m.
"Of course we're disappointed with the verdict," Insley said after the trial. " We believe that we put on a compelling argument that Mr. Williams was not part of this plan, that he was being used by them basically as a driver, and he was, of course, left at the scene. … It was always our position that he wasn't part of any conspiracy, so of course we're disheartened with the verdict, but we'll take it to the next step."
Moodispaw, whose client tapped the table as the guilty verdict was read, said she was disappointed with the verdict, but appreciated the jury's conscientious and thoughtful deliberations.
Sentencing for both men will be held on Friday, Oct. 12.