Two men were convicted Friday of randomly firing into a group of young people, killing a 12-year-old boy and wounding three others in an attempt to "send a message" to their East Baltimore neighbors.
In May 2011, prosecutors said, Danyae Robinson, 31, and Derrick Brown, 20, fired at least 15 shots, seeking to avenge the shooting earlier that night of a fellow gang member — even though their victims had nothing to do with their gang's rivals or the earlier shooting.
"This was a deplorable, unconscionable act of violence that hurt many and took the life of one of our young people," State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein said in a statement. "I thank the police and prosecutors for their unrelenting commitment and tireless work to bring this case to justice."
Robinson and Brown face the prospect of multiple life terms when they appear in court in May for sentencing. A co-defendant, Antwan Mosley, 23, earlier pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution; his agreement calls for a sentence of 15 to 30 years.
The victims were "boys who had done nothing wrong," Assistant State's Attorney Thiru Vignarajah said during opening arguments. "They were young boys who paid in blood in a war among men."
Sean Johnson, a standout student with a promising future, was killed after being shot twice in the head, once in the neck and once in the leg. Another teen in the group was shot nine times, but survived.
None of them had ever been arrested; one of the surviving victims now works as an usher at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; another is attending college, and the other is about to graduate from high school.
Sean's mother, Shawnta Little, sat in on the trial and said she was pleased the case was concluded "so I can start the process of healing, all over." The neighborhood has been quiet since the shootings, she said, though it is less common to see children outside playing anymore.
Of the investigators who worked the case, she said: "They worked as a team and got it done."
The Major Investigations Unit of the Baltimore state's attorney's office handled the case. Key to the investigation, prosecutors said, was the cooperation of Mosley, and an alleged "field general" in the Black Guerrilla Family gang, whose shooting the three men were seeking to avenge.
The BGF leader was shot, before 9 p.m. on May 24, 2011. Robinson, Brown and Mosley gathered in the neighborhood plotting revenge on the person they believed to have carried out the shooting, someone with the street name of "Critic" who belonged to a neighborhood crew called the Off Top Boys.
Prosecutors said the three circled the block, and Mosley peeled off to talk to someone he knew. That's when Robinson and Brown came upon the group of youth sitting on a porch watching an NBA game on a TV propped in a window. For no other reason than to send a message, Vignarajah said at trial, they opened fire on the group.
In addition to the testimony of Mosley and the alleged BGF general, who was not charged in the case, prosecutors played a tape of Brown speaking to police in which he admitted being present at the shooting, saying he exchanged gunfire with someone on the porch. Prosecutors said there was no evidence shots had been fired from the porch. Prosecutors also used phone records to corroborate testimony.
Defense attorneys Russell Neverdon and Roland Brown attacked the credibility of the witnesses, saying they were not present for the shooting and calling attention to their agreements with prosecutors.
Among the charges the jury found Robinson and Brown guilty of was a count of conspiracy to kill "Critic," whose identity was not revealed. Authorities said the investigation into the initial shooting remains active.