Seeking a victory over intimidators

The younger brother of a man about to go on trial for murder drove up to a bus stop on The Alameda and had just four words for one of the witnesses, according to court documents.

"Don't go to court," the 19-year-old warned before driving off.

He returned a half-hour later on foot with a shirt over his face, shooting the witness several times and leaving him for dead, according to the documents.

Myron Gladney - the brother of murder suspect Anthony Gladney - pleaded not guilty last week to attempted murder and intimidating a witness. The Northeast Baltimore bus stop shooting occurred in April as legislators in Annapolis were in the midst of drafting tougher witness-intimidation laws.

Although the witness survived and, from his hospital bed, identified Myron Gladney as his attacker, the shooting is one of a string of such incidents plaguing Baltimore's criminal justice system, according to city prosecutors. Intimidation routinely ranges from threatening gestures in the courtroom or attacks that leave witnesses injured or dead, as young men walk the streets wearing "Stop Snitchin'" T-shirts and a video warning witnesses not to snitch proves to be a best-seller.

A spokeswoman for Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy says the shooting of the witness, Stephen Arrington, follows a disturbing pattern. He was a reluctant witness who twice had to be brought in to prosecutors by officers, then was almost killed the day before the trial was to begin.

"When we look at case after case with the same fact pattern, and we know that these initially reluctant witnesses are being threatened with the potential for attempted murder, we have a significant threat to public safety," said Margaret T. Burns. "These are the types of cases we feel are very important to the public as we seek to change the law and seek more witness-protection programs."

In court this past week, Myron Gladney, of the 1600 block of Shady Side Road in Northeast Baltimore, sat slumped in his chair, making his 5-foot-5-inch, 125-pound frame seem even smaller. Wearing a long gray T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, his shackled hands were folded behind him as he awaited his arraignment.

His brother, Anthony Gladney, has been in jail since last July, accused of killing 35-year-old Brian Griffin in an apartment building on Marble Hill Road - a crime prosecutors say was fueled by a drug turf war. Police say he entered the apartment with a black shirt pulled over his face and shot Griffin multiple times with a handgun before fleeing on foot, according to court documents.

Anthony Gladney, 20, is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault, possession of a handgun and use of a handgun to commit a crime.

Arrington, who prosecutors say is a friend of Myron and Anthony Gladney, is still scheduled to testify at Anthony Gladney's trial, which begins Monday. But prosecutors can't be sure of that.

The first time Arrington failed to appear before prosecutors, he was jailed for a day and released under special conditions that required him to check in each Monday. He skipped a second meeting March 31, prosecutors said, when he was to receive a summons to appear in court for Anthony Gladney's April 7 trial.

On the eve of the trial, Arrington was standing at a bus stop on the 3400 block of The Alameda when, police say, Myron Gladney warned him not to testify. Arrington assured him he would not.

A half-hour later, he was shot in his lower back and abdomen. He was rushed to the hospital in "very grave" condition and remained in intensive care for several days, according to court documents. The trial was postponed.

Three weeks later, police visited Arrington at the hospital and asked him who his attacker was.

"Myron," he replied, according to the records.

Myron Gladney had been out on bail after being arrested in December and charged with distribution of heroin, intent to distribute heroin, possession of heroin and making false statements to police. He will be tried on all the charges, including those related to the April shooting, in September.

Under current law, the maximum penalty for witness intimidation is five years. With the signing of a new bill in May, that maximum penalty will be bumped to 20 years. It takes effect in October.

"It's unfortunate that our prosecutors are hearing these very, very serious cases all too often," Burns said. "In this case, an alleged attempted murder can affect the outcome in so many ways. If the witness had actually been killed, the underlying murder case would have been drastically impacted."

Baltimore police spokesman Matt Jablow said despite the "Stop Snitching" culture, police are seeing improvement in witness cooperation.

"We think, actually, it's getting better," Jablow said. "Are there isolated incidents? Clearly there are. But we think we're getting more cooperation than we have in a while."

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