An Anne Arundel County judge agreed yesterday to let a man perform 200 hours of community service instead of speaking at 10 local high schools about the dangers of carrying a loaded weapon, after the schools and the Annapolis Youth Services Bureau decided he was not the right messenger.
Michael W. Lovelace, 38, of the 8100 block of Harold Court in Glen Burnie, pleaded guilty in 1997 to manslaughter in the shooting death in 1996 of George Joseph Miller, 48, also of Glen Burnie. Circuit Judge Pamela L. North sentenced Lovelace to 10 years in prison, with nine years suspended, plus five years' probation.
He also was ordered to speak at local high schools about his crime. Lovelace had indicated he was uncomfortable with speaking in public and with lecturing on gun control, and school administrators were equally uncomfortable with allowing him to come.
"The problem in a nutshell was that he felt in order to give an accurate picture of his experience, he had to tell his audience what happened to him as part of his message that it was bad to carry a gun," said Philip H. Armstrong, Lovelace's attorney. But his experience would include talking about "self-defense and defense of others," he said.
Assistant State's Attorney John LeCornu argued that Lovelace violated his probation, saying Lovelace was "wriggling off the hook of the one special condition of probation that he didn't like." LeCornu said Lovelace waited too long, by not contacting schools until August 1998 and again a few weeks before he was to have spoken at all the schools.
Few principals replied to Lovelace's letter. Roy Skiles of Northeast High School responded in a Dec. 23, 1998, letter. "After carefully reviewing your letter, I don't get any sense that this is a message you also believe in. Instead, it seems to me you believe you have been wronged by the judicial system, and this is just one additional obligation you must fulfill."
An administrator from school headquarters eventually told him he would not be permitted to address students.
Lovelace must complete his 200 hours of community service for the Annapolis Youth Services Bureau within a year. The change was met by shouts at Lovelace from two of the victim's friends outside the courtroom.
North said she felt her original sentence was a good idea that did not work out. She said she was ordering Lovelace to spend 20 times the amount of time in community service as in her original sentence.