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Annapolis man gets 10-year term in manslaughter; Judge notes defendant's long criminal record


An Annapolis man with a long criminal record was given the maximum prison sentence for manslaughter yesterday in the death of another man resulting from a simmering dispute that began over a woman.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Michael E. Loney ordered Al Ballinger Sr., 39, to spend 10 years in prison. Noting that Ballinger has 17 convictions -- among them violent offenses, drug possession and escape from jail -- Loney said Ballinger has a history of lawlessness.

Public Defender Keith Gross, who sought a sentence of no more than three years, said he would appeal Ballinger's conviction. Assistant State's Attorney M. Virginia Miles said she believed the sentence was appropriate.

Ballinger was charged with murder in the April 1999 beating death of Thomas Smith, 67, of Betsy Court in Annapolis, at the home that Ballinger shared with his girlfriend in the 700 block of Newtown Drive.

At his trial in November, Ballinger maintained that he acted in self-defense when he clubbed Smith to death with an aluminum baseball bat. A jury convicted him on the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The disagreement between the two men centered on Smith's former girlfriend, who shared an apartment with Ballinger and had remained friendly with Smith. She had visited Smith the night before Ballinger killed him.

The next morning, April 8, she asked Smith to help her take her child somewhere. When Smith got to the apartment, the two men argued.

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