A Baltimore Circuit Court judge dismissed yesterday charges against four middle-school students in an attack on a Maryland Transit Administration bus driver in December but left intact most other charges related to assaults on two passengers.
A fifth student remains accused of attacking the driver as well as the passengers.
The dismissals reflected uncertainty over the testimony earlier of Danny Williams, the driver of the No. 27 bus in Hampden, who gave conflicting accounts from the stand and had trouble identifying some of the suspects, who initially numbered nine.
"This just supports our theory that this is a rush to judgment," Donald Wright, a defense attorney for one of the students, said in reference to the case overall. He added that Judge David W. Young "does not believe Danny Williams when he says he was punched and kicked" in the melee aboard his bus Dec. 4.
The students, all from Robert Poole Middle School, are accused of beating Sarah Kreager, 26, a mother of three, and her companion, Troy Ennis, in a dispute over an empty seat. The students also are accused of conspiring to commit the assaults and of reckless endangerment, malicious destruction of property and disturbing the peace.
Yesterday, in an effort to diminish the credibility of Kreager and Ennis, the defense brought in as a witness city police Officer Andrew McCarty who, over vigorous objections from prosecutors, testified that while on an undercover stakeout in October he had seen Ennis dealing drugs and had heard Kreager asking him for pills.
The prosecution sought to buttress its conspiracy claim by painting the students as a unified group while at school. Assistant State's Attorney Dawn Jones elicited from Principal Tony Edwards the information that the accused students were in the same grade - if not necessarily in the same class - but was prevented by a defense objection from learning whether the students usually ate lunch together.
"The state is trying to bootstrap its conspiracy theory onto the principal," said a defense lawyer, Margaret Desonier.
After the hearing, another defense attorney, Garland Sanderson, said it was "a positive sign" that some of the charges had been dropped.
"It's looking good," he said of the trial, which resumes Monday. "Now we can concentrate on the other charges."