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Trial opens in assault on former Howard High football player


The trial of an Oakland Mills High School football player accused of smashing a beer bottle over the head of a rival county football star began yesterday, with the victim testifying that he suffers weakness and seizures from the March 10 attack and can no longer play football.

"I have a lot of things I can't do anymore," said 18-year-old Shawn A. Sherman, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound former athlete from Elkridge, who testified in Howard County Circuit Court. "I can't play football anymore due to my injuries."

Mr. Sherman graduated from Howard High School this year and was named most valuable defensive player on the football team.

The attorney for Bradley Aaron Matulevich, 18, of Columbia, who is accused in the attack, said the victim and some of his friends intended to confront his client and other youths in the Oakland Mills High School parking lot March 10.

"He didn't go there to talk. He didn't go there to straighten anything out," Phineas S. Dixon of Catonsville said of the victim. "This was a vendetta."

Mr. Sherman was one of five state witnesses who testified yesterday before Judge Dennis Sweeney in a trial that drew about a dozen student spectators from Howard and Oakland Mills high schools.

Mr. Matulevich, a recent Oakland Mills graduate, is charged with assault with intent to maim and assault and battery. If convicted, he would face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Mr. Sherman also has filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. Matulevich and three juvenile defendants, seeking $1.5 million on each of five counts. The three juveniles are charged in separate criminal cases.

During opening statements yesterday, Senior Assistant State's

Attorney Joseph Murtha said the attack stemmed from hostility that arose after Mr. Sherman stopped a fight between Oakland Mills High and Howard High students outside a Pizza Hut on Route 108 in February.

Since then, one of the juveniles also charged in the incident -- a friend of Mr. Matulevich -- has held a grudge against Mr. Sherman, said the prosecutor. The victim and his family became targets of repeated threats, Mr. Murth said.

Apparently seeking to retaliate, the juvenile, Mr. Matulevich and other friends confronted Mr. Sherman on the parking lot of

Oakland Mills High March 10, Mr. Murtha said. Mr. Sherman and his friends were in the area trying to find a party in Oakland Mills, the prosecutor said.

During the confrontation, one of Mr. Matulevich's friends head-butted Mr. Sherman and another tackled him to the concrete, where he was repeatedly kicked and beaten, Mr. Murtha said.

Mr. Matulevich "took the beer bottle and smashed the beer bottle over his head," Mr. Murtha said. "At that time, Shawn Sherman went into a coma state."

On the witness stand, Mr. Sherman said the only thing he remembered about that night is sitting in his car at a friend's house waiting to leave for the party.

After the attack, Mr. Sherman spent more than a week at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore and more than two weeks at a rehabilitation center.

Mr. Matulevich's lawyer said in his opening statement that Mr. Sherman and two carloads of his friends were looking to fight the defendant's friend. The fight took place after Mr. Sherman tried to hit one of the other youths, the lawyer said.

Before the trial began, Judge Sweeney warned the spectators from the two schools that he would not tolerate any violent behavior in the courtroom or near the courthouse.

The trial is expected to resume today, with the state calling its final witness.

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