As someone held 16-year-old Dan Johnson on a public housing project street a few blocks from Annapolis' historic district in April, 17-year-old Charles Nathaniel Allen pulled out a gun and hit Johnson on the head with it. The weapon discharged, and a bullet fatally tore through Johnson's brain.
Yesterday, Allen, now 18, pleaded guilty in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to second-degree murder and a handgun violation and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
"Mr. Allen, there simply is not anything this court can say that in any way will comfort Dan Johnson's parents or your parents as well," Judge Nancy Davis-Loomis said, as the youths' families wept in her courtroom.
Allen's lawyer, assistant public defender Mary Jo Livingston, described the fatal shooting as "an accident based on reckless conduct."
But Assistant State's Attorney Kelly Poma rejected that argument. "Mr. Allen hit Dan Johnson in the head with a loaded gun with his finger on the trigger," she said. "'Accident' is sort of a relative term."
Kimberly Johnson, the victim's mother, who said she aches each time she sees where her child was slain, said she wanted a sentence of life without parole for the killer of her eldest child.
"I don't feel justice was served. If he killed once, he can kill again. I can look at him and see that he doesn't care," she said after the hearing.
She and other family members described Dan as a happy Annapolis High School student who loved football and basketball, video games and music. Because he had gotten into some trouble, he was living in nearby Admiral Oaks with an uncle, and was maturing into a young man who was working after school and considering an Army career, they said.
In court yesterday, the prosecution and the defense portrayed Allen, of the first block of Rosemary St. in Annapolis, as a troubled youth.
He has a history of cocaine use and suffers from attention deficit disorder and other problems. He had 10 contacts with juvenile authorities, has been on probation four times, spent a month in a juvenile facility for possession of drugs with intent to distribute and had undergone a drug rehabilitation program.
Livingston described her client as a teen on the cusp of adulthood who was given to immature thinking, nervous giggling and behavior common to 11-year-olds. He had been a special-education student since first grade and suffered from depression. At the time of the homicide, he was working toward a high school equivalency diploma, she said.
"He is ill-prepared in almost every way to be a productive member of society," she said, winning a judicial recommendation for Allen to be evaluated for a Patuxent Institution prison rehabilitation program.
Poma sought a sentence within the guidelines of 18 to 25 years. Allen had been charged with first-degree murder, but Poma said the facts of the case warranted a plea to second-degree murder.
Allen was sentenced to 25 years on the murder charge, with five years suspended, plus five years of supervised probation. He was sentenced to a concurrent 15 years on the weapons charge, with 10 years of that sentence suspended.
Allen's friend and co-defendant, Larry Eugene Adams of Arnold, is accused of holding Johnson during the confrontation. He also is charged with murder and is scheduled for trial at the end of this month.