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All charges dropped in murder case against student from Baltimore

The Baltimore Sun

For four months after being pulled out of a college classroom in New York, Nicholas Dudley Pinderhughes Weaver sat in jail, charged with a murder that he said he knew nothing about.

Then, the aspiring attorney from Baltimore spent four months out on bail, awaiting trial and his chance to prove his innocence.

Yesterday, Baltimore County prosecutors said that a lack of evidence has led them to drop all charges in the case. Although State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger would not go into more detail, Weaver's lawyer said the lone witness changed his story and said he lied about even being in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the night of the fatal shooting in 2002.

"Thank God that finally the prosecutors looked at everything," said Margaret A. Mead, the 23-year-old's defense attorney. "I try to maintain the philosophy that everything happens for a reason, even though sometimes we can't see the reason. But I think it will make Nicholas one fantastic attorney."

Shellenberger said prosecutors dropped the charges Friday after reviewing the evidence.

"When you're getting ready for trial, you're looking at the evidence in a little different way than when you're making an arrest," he said. "We believe the evidence would be insufficient to convict Nick Weaver of murder."

Weaver - the grandson of the late Alice G. Pinderhughes, who was the first female superintendent of Baltimore City schools - was arrested at Adelphi University on Long Island on Feb. 14.

Accused of being the shooter, Weaver was one of two young men charged in the death of David L. Baskin Jr., an aspiring rap musician who was shot in July 2002 near his Woodlawn home, just a day after his 18th birthday. Baskin's mother has said that police told her he was the unintended victim of a group of West Baltimore boys who were feuding with a group from Woodlawn over a girl.

Both Weaver and the other man were 16 at the time of the killing on July 3, 2002.

Charges against the other man, Charles H. Davis, were dismissed in March. Ten days later, Weaver was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, assault, burglary, handgun offenses and being an accessory to the killing after the fact.

A witness linked both Weaver and Davis to the fatal shooting.

Facing attempted armed robbery, assault and gun charges of his own in Baltimore city, the witness told a Baltimore County detective in January that Weaver drove some friends to Woodlawn and parked near the home of a girl who was at the center of a simmering dispute between the boys in West Baltimore and Woodlawn.

He told police that Weaver and Davis got out of the car and were gone for about 15 minutes, according to charging documents. When they returned to the vehicle, Weaver said, "It's done," according to the court documents.

"That's it. That was enough," Mead said of the evidence that police used to charge her client.

But the cases against Weaver and Davis quickly began to unravel, Mead said.

First, Davis had "a very clear alibi as to where he was that night," the defense attorney said. "So it was clear that the statement of [the witness] has some inaccuracies. ... If you lied about one little part, you lied about other stuff, too."

In addition, she said, her own client also was not in the Woodlawn neighborhood at the time of the shooting. Rather, Weaver and some friends drove to the Inner Harbor that night to pick up another friend from work. The friend's manager, she said, saw the teenagers waiting outside for 45 minutes before the friend got off work at midnight.

The shooting, according to police, happened at 11:37 p.m. in the Heraldry Square neighborhood of Woodlawn.

"He was not out there," Mead said. "He knew nothing about it."

Then, the witness began changing his story, she said, and others who were in Heraldry Square on the night of the shooting told police that they had not seen the witness there.

"He was trying to get a deal," Mead said of the witness' own criminal charges. "He admitted that he lied about all of it. He started admitting that everything he had said piecemeal before was a lie. And it was. That time, he was telling the truth."

John Cox, the assistant state's attorney who handled the case, said there was not much he could say about the dismissal of the charges.

"I have to be very circumspect about that one," he said. "Some information had developed to the point that we decided we just didn't have the ability to go forward."

Weaver - an Eagle Scout, an acolyte at his church and a graduate of Baltimore's Mount St. Joseph High School who had also attended the Gilman School - is the son of Dr. Jesse R. Weaver, a dentist, and Alice G. Pinderhughes, an attorney. Neither returned phone messages yesterday.

Mead said that Nicholas Weaver could not comment on the case.

Brenda Baskin waited a long time for good news in the investigation of her son's death.

When she found Baltimore County police Sgt. Allen Meyer, the lead detective in her son's murder case, waiting at work for her on Feb. 15 at the Baltimore City Department of Social Services, she was overjoyed.

"I grabbed him and hugged him. I said, 'It's happened, hasn't it?'" she said in an interview in February.

Yesterday, she expressed nothing but disappointment.

"We're really, really, really not pleased with the decision to dismiss the case," she said. "I think the judicial system let us down - not the Police Department - but I think that there is more that could be done."

Referring to the accomplishments detailed on Weaver's resume and included in news reports about his arrest, Brenda Baskin said, "I'm not going to discredit that he was trying to be a good kid. But we had a good kid, too. He had no criminal record. He didn't get a chance to develop his resume."

Mead said the Weaver family could not have been more understanding of the Baskins' sorrow. Their own son - Christopher B. Weaver, the older brother of Nicholas Weaver - was killed in 2004 when an intruder entered his apartment in Hampton, Va., and opened fire with a handgun. The 22-year-old was a senior business major at Hampton University.

"She had the greatest empathy for the victim's family," the defense attorney said of Weaver's mother, Alice Pinderhughes. "I think this was a situation where a young man had died and people wanted somebody to be held accountable for it. But there was an inadequate and incomplete investigation into the whole matter."

Nicholas Weaver now intends to return to college to finish his degree - albeit a semester behind schedule, Mead said.

"His goal is to become an attorney," she added. "He can pursue his career in the legal profession and have a much more in-depth perspective on it."

Baltimore Sun reporter Brent Jones contributed to this article.

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