A former MVA clerk said yesterday she felt sorry for Dontay Carter when she issued him a fraudulent driver's license in slaying victim Vitalis V. Pilius' name.
"That's the person who told me his license was burned in a fire and he needed a new license," Pennie J. Johnson said, referring to the East Baltimore teen-ager on trial for murder and kidnapping. "He looked somewhat sad. . . . His story was believable and I remember feeling compassion for him."
Ms. Johnson, who was fired from her job at the state Motor Vehicle Administration's Mondawmin office in connection with the incident, was the last of eight witnesses to testify in the third day of the trial in Baltimore Circuit Court.
The other witnesses identified Carter as the person who used Mr. Pilius' credit cards to rent hotel rooms and cars and buy sporting apparel.
The manager of a rental car company at Baltimore-Washington International Airport testified that she summoned two state troopers after she became suspicious of Carter. Sherry Coleman, manager of Budget Rent-A-Car, said she noticed Carter didn't appear to be 37 years old -- the age on the license issued earlier that day in Mr. Pilius' name.
She said Carter became loud and belligerent when she wouldn't rent him a car. "He said, 'I see what this is. A black man can't rent a . . . car,' " she told the jury.
She said she confiscated the credit card, but the troopers returned the license to Carter.
The two troopers were subsequently disciplined.
Baltimore police Officer John Mack testified he was working at his part-time job at a sporting goods store in Mondawmin Mall when Carter charged more than $830 in tennis shoes, underwear and warm-up suits on Feb. 11 -- the day Mr. Pilius was last seen alive. The officer said he became suspicious, but that a store manager approved the sale after Carter created a scene by complaining: "What? A black man can't have no credit?"
Other witnesses identified Carter as the man who used Mr. Pilius' credit cards to rent two rooms at the Marriott Inner Harbor hotel and a car from an Avis outlet downtown. Carter even returned to Avis a day later to renew the lease under more favorable weekend rates, but that charge was not approved, a clerk testified.
Defense attorneys sought throughout the day to cast doubts about the witness identifications.
Carter, 19, is charged with abducting Mr. Pilius in the parking garage at the Harbor Park Cinema and beating him to death with a metal pole. He faces life in prison with no chance for parole if convicted in the death of the father of four from Catonsville.
He is also charged in two other abductions as part of a February crime spree, but Judge John N. Prevas ruled Carter could receive separate trials on those offenses.
In court yesterday, prosecutor Vickie L. Wash produced a
license application that contained Mr. Pilius' name, date of birth and physical description. Ms. Johnson, a six-year MVA employee, said the application was processed after Carter gave her a partially burned license in Mr. Pilius' name and asked for a replacement.
The incident prompted motor vehicle officials to revamp procedures for granting replacement licenses and state identification cards.
Ms. Johnson testified she is appealing her firing.
"I was more or less used as a scapegoat," Ms. Johnson said under questioning by defense attorney Jonathan Van Hoven.