Teen-ager pleads guilty to assault


A Prince George's County teen-ager admitted his role yesterday in a drug-related robbery that left one man dead in a North Laurel apartment in late 1998.

Patrick Sean Gardner, 18, of the 8300 block of Matthews Court, pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of first-degree assault, a charge related to the teen-ager's actions after the fatal shooting of Donald R. Mitchell, 43, in a Sylvan Still Road apartment on Dec. 10, 1998. Prosecutors said Gardner tried to shoot a second man, Donovan Bowen, with a 9 mm handgun while chasing him.

Gardner faces a maximum of 25 years in prison at his Aug. 2 sentencing. Under a plea agreement, prosecutors have agreed to ask Judge Diane O. Leasure to limit the teen-ager's prison term to 15 years active time, lawyers said yesterday.

Gardner is the last of three defendants to be prosecuted in Howard County Circuit Court for their actions the night Mitchell died.

In March 2000, a Howard County jury convicted the accused gunman, Randall Bagley Jr., 25, of Virginia, of murder in Mitchell's death despite defense allegations that Gardner was the shooter. Bagley was sentenced to life plus 35 years in prison in September.

A second man, Kevin A. Lee, 22, of Severn, pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree assault in March 2000. He received a 15-year prison term with all but eight years suspended.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Michael Rexroad said yesterday that Gardner, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, was one of three people who went to Bowen's apartment that December night. Bagley had visited Bowen earlier to buy some cocaine and had said he would return, Rexroad said.

Bowen, 30, told police that he let the men in about 9 p.m., went to the kitchen to call his girlfriend and heard a shot, Rexroad said. When Bowen turned around, he saw that Mitchell, a friend who had been watching a basketball game at the apartment, had been shot, Rexroad said.

Mitchell was sitting on Bowen's couch when he was shot in the chest, prosecutors said.

After the shooting, Bagley grabbed the drugs sitting on Bowen's kitchen counter, held the gun used to kill Mitchell to Bowen's ribs and led him out of the apartment, Rexroad said. Outside, Bowen used his elbow to knock the gun out of Bagley's hand and the two struggled, the prosecutor said.

Gardner picked up the gun and pointed it at Bowen, Rexroad said. Bowen heard a racking and clicking sound, but the gun didn't fire, he said.

Bowen broke away and Gardner, who still had the gun, chased him. Bowen continued to hear the racking and clicking sound, Rexroad said.

Bowen managed to get back into his apartment and call 911, Rexroad said.

Gardner admitted to police that he pointed the gun at Bowen and chased the North Laurel man into his apartment but said the clip had fallen out, Rexroad said.

Gardner's attorney, Bill Hale, said yesterday that his client had picked up the gun to help Bagley, who was struggling with Bowen. Gardner thought he was going to the Sylvan Still Road apartment for a "drug transaction," Hale said. The teen-ager did not know anyone would get hurt, he said.

The remaining counts against Gardner, including a charge of attempted murder, will be dropped at sentencing, Rexroad said.

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