One of the four Columbia teenagers charged in connection with the assault of a taxi driver in March was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty in Howard County Circuit Court Tuesday, according to state's attorney spokesman Wayne Kirwan.
Johnam Perez-Rivera, 16, of the 9400 block of Merry Rest Road, pleaded guilty to one count of armed robbery and one count of first-degree assault in front of Howard County Circuit Court Judge Louis A. Becker III, according to Kirwan.
Perez-Rivera is one of four teens, all of whom were students at Oakland Mills High School at the time of the incident, charged in the crime.
Khalid Khaheim Woods, 19, of the 9200 block of Wandering Way, pleaded guilty to one count of armed robbery and one count of conspiracy to commit assault on Aug. 8 and is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 15.
Woody Rousseau, 17, of the 6500 block of Pennacock Court, and Chellby Ofosusafori, 17, of the 6500 block of Woven Moonbeam Street, each face one count of second-degree attempted murder, two armed robbery counts, two robbery counts and four counts of assault in connection with the incident.
Rousseau's trial is set for Sept. 25, while Ofosusafori's is set for Sept. 10.
At Perez-Rivera's hearing on Aug. 20, prosecutor Joanna Miller told the court that the cab driver felt suspicious of the four teens he picked up on the evening of March 1 and requested a $10 fare upfront, Kirwan said.
Upon arrival at the teens' requested destination of Sewell’s Orchard neighborhood in Columbia, one of the four passengers choked the driver with a yellow karate belt, Kirwan said. The front seat passenger, believe to be Woods, pulled out a handgun, which Howard County Police believe was a BB gun, and threatened to kill the driver.
The driver, fearing for his life, sped off and crashed into a tree, according to the charging documents file in the cases.
In an interview with police following his arrest, Perez-River admitted to choking the driver, Kirwan said. At the hearing, the defense attorney told the court that it was not her client’s intention to harm the driver; he meant only to subdue him, according to Kirwan.
Kirwan said the cab driver told the court that he suffered panic attacks following the crash and said “People trying to take my life for a couple of dollars…this shouldn’t have happened to anybody."
Becker sentenced Perez-Rivera to 15 years, suspending all but 18 months, for armed robbery and 15 years, suspending all but 18 months, for first-degree assault. The two sentences will be served concurrently, Kirwan said.
Perez-Rivera will be placed on five years of supervised probation upon his release, and was ordered to pay restitution to the cab driver, Kirwan said.