After a day of intense negotiations, expected plea agreements between prosecutors and at least two defendants in the brutal, near-fatal beating of a 12-year-old girl at a Baltimore birthday party fell apart after the case was shuttled among three different courtrooms.
Julie Drake, chief of the felony violence unit in the Baltimore state's attorney's office, said she still believes plea agreements will be reached for some of the four defendants whose cases were being negotiated yesterday by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
The four - all being held in jail - are due to appear in administrative court Monday.
Paternal family members and friends of the victim, Nicole Ashley Townes, who spent the day waiting in court, declined to comment. Nicole, who was in a coma for three months and suffered brain damage in the February attack, did not appear in court.
"I'm particularly sorry for the family who has been here the entire day waiting," Drake said. "My heart is just breaking for them right now."
The four defendants are: Monique Baldwin, 36, who is accused of instigating the attack and who is the mother of the girl whose birthday was being celebrated; Baldwin's cousin Erin Baldwin, 20; party guest Seletta Broaddus, 15; and Kenya Keene, 24, who lived with Nicole.
All four were scheduled to go to trial this morning before city Circuit Judge Kaye A. Allison in the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse. Drake told the judge she would meet with the attorneys for the four defendants and report back to her. After 4 p.m. the case was moved across the street to Courthouse East, where pleas were expected to be taken before Circuit Judge Paul A. Smith. But Smith directed the prosecution and defense attorneys to move down the hall to the courtroom of Circuit Judge John C. Themelis.
After listening to Drake and the four attorneys at the bench, Themelis said the case was sent to him under the belief that pleas would be heard. But "it's clear you all are not willing to plead before me on the basis of the offer," the judge said.
Themelis attributed the reluctance of some of the defense attorneys to present the plea agreements to him because the deals provided for a range of sentencing, rather than a specific prison term. The defense attorneys agreed. Drake then withdrew the plea offers to two of the defendants, Erin Baldwin and Broaddus.
Broaddus' attorney, Kenneth Man, has filed a motion to transfer her case to juvenile court. Another co-defendant, Temprest Baldwin, who is Monique Baldwin's niece, has a court date scheduled for next week on a similar motion.
Two other juveniles charged in the attack have entered the equivalent of guilty pleas and are committed to the Department of Juvenile Services.
The Feb. 28 incident occurred at a party for Monique Baldwin's daughter. The attack was sparked when a 12-year-old boy at the party kissed Nicole, according to court documents.
One of the guests became upset, and Monique Baldwin is accused of ordering a group of people - including her 7-year-old son and daughters, ages 13 and 14 - to beat Nicole.