CLARIFICATION - A headline in the Maryland section yesterday could have left the impression that a man convicted of shooting a neighbor in a botched robbery and drug deal in Glen Burnie was sentenced to two months in jail. As the story said, Ronald Francis Dawson II was sentenced to one year in jail, dating to when he was arrested in December. He is expected to be released within the next two months. The Sun regrets the error.
A Glen Burnie man who pleaded guilty yesterday to fatally shooting a neighbor in what might have been a botched drug deal and robbery will be out of jail in less than two months.
The one-year sentence given to Ronald Francis Dawson II, 23, dates to Dec. 4, shortly after he was arrested in New York. He is expected to get time off for good behavior, then will be on probation for five years.
Relatives of the victim, Taveon Jawon "T.J." Watson, 18, were upset with defense lawyer Peter S. O'Neill's characterization that Watson "brought this tragedy upon himself" by arranging to rob Dawson.
Watson's family described him as a good-natured youth who loved sports, video games and animals, and died before the birth of his daughter, now 5 months old.
"To sit here and accept this plea is kind of crazy to me, but you know," said Londa Sanders, Watson's mother, "I guess this is justice."
O'Neill said Dawson agreed to the plea to avoid the possibility of being found guilty of second-degree murder and handgun charges. The latter were dropped.
"He got off," Watson's aunt, Jonese Hodges, told Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge William C. Mulford II.
Several of Watson's relatives wept as the prosecutor and defense lawyer bickered about what took place behind a townhouse in the 400 block of Norvelle Court on the night of Nov. 24.
Dawson, after apologizing to the family, said he was attacked from behind in the dark after thinking that he was going to the house to "hang out."
Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Alexander said a friend of the men, Maima Patrice Hill, 19, had arranged to meet Dawson to buy drugs and for Watson to rob him. When Dawson arrived, he was approached by Watson and two teenagers. A scuffle followed, and Dawson shot Watson in the chest at point-blank range.
At the scene, police found a bandanna and a pellet gun that was a replica of a 9 mm handgun, both of which Hill told police Watson was carrying for the robbery, Alexander said. They also found what looked like a bag of marijuana but was not.
Charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, Hill is scheduled for trial on Sept. 27.
Alexander said the plea provided a measure of certainty because Dawson was held accountable for Watson's death, and four years of prison time as potential punishment for violating probation would provide public safety.
"Was it an appropriate compromise? I think it was," Mulford said after pronouncing the sentence.