A Columbia teenager accused of killing another teen by hitting him in the back of the head with a baseball bat during a late-night brawl last year will face 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and a weapons charge.
According to a binding plea agreement, Kevin Francis Klink will be sentenced to 10 years for manslaughter and three years for the dangerous-weapon charge in the death of 18-year-old Robert Brazell Jr. of Ellicott City. Klink, who will be eligible for parole in 6 1/2 years, originally faced several charges, including first-degree murder and assault.
The 19-year-old former high school wrestling champion entered the plea deal during a hearing Tuesday before Howard County Circuit Judge Lenore R. Gelfman. Klink, who is being held without bail at the Howard County Detention Center, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 26, the day the case had been scheduled to go to trial.
An "expedited" hearing was scheduled after a plea agreement was reached early this week, a spokesman for the Howard County state's attorney's office said. That office announced the guilty plea yesterday.
Brazell died after a fight involving nearly two dozen teenagers at the football stadium of Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City in February. Prosecutors said that around 12:30 a.m. on Feb. 24, 2007, police found Brazell unconscious and lying in a pool of blood on the running track behind Mount Hebron High. He died the next day at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Police later recovered Brazell's DNA and two of Klink's fingerprints from an aluminum bat they found at the high school.
According to a statement of facts in the case that accompanied yesterday's announcement from Howard County prosecutors, Klink said Brazell had just assaulted his friend, then stood up over the friend and slightly backed up, but still in a "fighting stance."
Klink, a 2006 graduate of Oakland Mills High School, "used an amount of force which was objectively unreasonable in his defense of another. The defendant honestly, but unreasonably believed that [his friend] was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm, and the defendant honestly, but unreasonably believed that the force that he used was necessary," according to the statement of facts.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the case until it is closed, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office said. Klink's attorney, Samuel Truette, also declined to comment yesterday.
Prosecutors said a group of male students were attending an underage-drinking party on Robert Jay Way in Ellicott City, less than a mile from Mount Hebron High, when several of them began to exchange phone calls with an Atholton High School student who tried to set up a rematch of another altercation from five days earlier. About 15 Mount Hebron students left the party, which was later broken up by police, and walked to the high school to fight the other teens.
After both groups yelled threats and profanities at each other, most of the teenagers began fighting, according to prosecutors. At some point during the fight, Brazell was hit with a bat and immediately dropped to the ground. Two other students were seriously injured.
All but two of the students, who were Brazell's friends, fled the scene. Several witnesses, who were students at Hammond High School, later told police that they saw Klink strike Brazell with a bat. One said Klink used both hands and took a "home run" swing.
The case of another teenager, who originally was charged as an adult, has been moved to the juvenile system. The teenager, who was 17 at the time of the incident, was originally charged with first-degree assault until a grand jury indicted him in November on second-degree assault and riot charges, automatically moving his case to the juvenile system.
That teenager repeatedly struck another teenager in the stomach with a baseball bat and hit two others, leaving one with permanent brain damage, according to court documents.