Man gets 25 years in murder scheme

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The man who admitted a role in what Baltimore County prosecutors say was a failed murder-for-hire scheme last fall was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison.

Julius Lynn Jackson, 29, pleaded guilty in May to being part of a plot to kill Rocco J. Battaglia, the estranged husband of 46-year-old Cecelia M. Somers. According to prosecutors, Jackson told police that Somers, formerly known as Cecelia Battaglia, had offered him $5,000 to kill her husband, who had moved into an Arbutus apartment and had stopped paying the mortgage on their Glen Burnie home.

Yesterday, Jackson's voice wavered as he apologized for his actions the morning of Nov. 26, when he approached Battaglia as the older man left for work, threatened him with a shotgun and marched him through the woods to a deserted spot where Jackson told police he had planned to kill him.

Police say Jackson tried to fire the shotgun at Battaglia, but the weapon misfired. Jackson said he never loaded the gun. Both Jackson and the police say the two men started to scuffle.

Battaglia's nose was broken in the fight, but he was able to wrestle the gun away from Jackson, police said. At that point, they said, Jackson fled to a car where Somers and a 17-year-old girl were waiting.

Jackson was arrested a few days later, after the 17-year-old spoke to police and prompted the investigation into Somers.

"I was desperate," Jackson said yesterday in court, crying. "All I can say is I'm sorry. That's it."

Jackson's lawyer, Sally C. Chester, emphasized that Jackson's cooperation with police and his plea deal have helped prosecutors' case against Somers - the defendant Chester described as the true threat in the case.

"He has done the best he could to bring Mrs. Battaglia to justice," Chester said.

Somers pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to commit murder and is scheduled to be sentenced later this month. According to the terms of her plea deal, she will receive no more than 15 years in prison.

In court, Chester spoke of her client's mental problems, and Jackson talked about his desperation for money when he said Somers hired him for the slaying.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz addressed him.

"It's not an unusual occurrence for people to be on hard times," Levitz said. "It's not unusual for people to be desperate for money."

Luckily, the judge continued, it is unusual for a person to try to earn money by committing murder.

"Twenty-five years," he said.

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