Teen acquitted of shooting 2 hot dog vendors


A teen-ager charged with shooting two downtown hot dog vendors last summer was found not guilty yesterday of attempted murder.

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury deliberated for less than an hour before finding Anthony W. Smith, 18, not guilty of two counts of attempted first-degree murder and armed robbery.

The verdict came a week after another jury found Jacoby "Be-Bop" Bennett, 17, guilty of armed robbery and two counts of attempted second-degree murder in the July 17 shooting, which left the two vendors critically wounded.

Bennett testified during his trial that Mr. Smith fired the shots that wounded John Trikilis and Mindy Murdza as they were working at a sidewalk hot dog stand outside the University of Maryland's down town medical complex. During closing arguments yesterday, Mr. Smith's lawyer, M. Gordon Tayback, argued that Ms. Murdza's identification of his client as the gunman was not reliable.

The verdict yesterday left Ms. Murdza in tears and Mr. Trikilis angry.

"People try to make a living and stuff like this happens to you and they let him go like this. I just don't understand it," Mr. Trikilis said.

Jurors said afterward that prosecutors had failed to prove Mr. Smith was the gunman.

Robert D. Bernard, 24, and Tiffany R. Bennett, 22, pleaded guilty to armed robbery Tuesday in connection with the incident. Bernard is to testify against Jacoby Bennett and Mr. Smith when they stand trial for murder in the July 14 slaying of Ervin Nathaniel Brown, 41, a middle school teacher shot in the head and chest in his car.

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