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Anne Arundel judge sentences two prison gang members to 30 years for murder behind bars

An Anne Arundel County judge handed down the maximum sentence to two members of a white supremacist prison gang Monday after they killed a rival inmate by stabbing him more than 50 times at a state prison in Jessup.

Authorities say four members of the Aryan Brotherhood murdered John Albert O’Sullivan, 43, of Pasadena, at the Jessup Correctional Institution. After one member pleaded guilty to premeditated murder, a jury in January found two others — Vincent Bunner, 27, and Calvin Lockner, 39 — guilty of second-degree murder. The alleged leader of the gang remains to be tried.

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O’Sullivan was a member of rival prison gang Dead Man Inc. An attack against a brotherhood member at another prison prompted the gang’s leader in Maryland, also housed in Jessup, to call for a retaliatory hit against O’Sullivan. Bunner, Lockner and Brian Hare planned and carried out the attack, which was captured on video. The three men stormed O’Sullivan’s cell, where he was shirtless and vulnerable. They stabbed and slashed him 54 times.

Members of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, Calvin Lockner, left, and Vincent Bunner were sentenced Monday to 30 more years in prison after they fatally stabbed another inmate in 2016.
Members of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, Calvin Lockner, left, and Vincent Bunner were sentenced Monday to 30 more years in prison after they fatally stabbed another inmate in 2016. (File Photo / HANDOUT)

At sentencing, State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess focused on the men’s track record. She said they preyed on the vulnerable and left a trail of blood behind. Leitess also said the men showed no remorse for their deadly assault, urging Circuit Judge Stacy McCormack to hand down the harshest penalty allowable.

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Meanwhile, Bunner’s and Lockner’s lawyers tried to deflect their culpability by saying their lives were at risk if they didn’t strike. The defense attorneys also cast blame upon the Maryland Division of Corrections, where both their clients effectively grew up. They said a culture of violence prevails in the prison system and that inmates hardly have a chance to be rehabilitated, one of the pillars of punishments in the criminal justice system.

McCormack said she focused neither on the details of Bunner’s and Lockner’s past crimes or the harsh environment of prison. She honed in on the facts and heinousness of the murder case. She handed down 30 years to be served after the completion of their current sentences: Life for Bunner, 31 years for Lockner.

“They stabbed an individual 54 times..." McCormack said. “I have no doubt that is the appropriate sentence.”

Leitess said after court that Bunner’s and Lockner’s criminal records proved they were a danger to the rest of the county, noting that they targeted the vulnerable repeatedly. Pushing back on the defense’s arguments, she conceded prisons are violent but that “not everyone is committing murderous acts.”

Lockner’s attorney, Brandon Patterson, declined to comment. Bridget Elis, Bunner’s attorney, said the case was really sad.

“I certainly think the trial shed light on issues in the Department of Corrections... and the ability for anyone that’s incarcerated to ever get a fair shot,” said Elis, a public defender. “The violence and criminality that people get sentence for surrounds them while they’re incarcerated.”

Leitess revisited Bunner’s and Lockner’s criminal history. She explained how Bunner already has already killed three times in his short life. At 17, Bunner shot and killed two people during botched robberies in Glen Burnie. Lockner, meanwhile, raped a woman in the woods and viciously beat an elderly Black fisherman in Baltimore during a racist attack, Leitess said.

“He shows no mercy to people, your honor," Leitess said of Lockner. “... He has shown a track record for preying on vulnerable people."

As for the murder of O’Sullivan, Leitess said Lockner planned to take out O’Sullivan’s eye. She said both men bragged about the attack afterwards in letters and cards.

“The enjoyment was very clear,” she said, asking McCormack not to give the men credit for the time they served in prison waiting for the case to play out.

The trial in January was the second for Bunner and Lockner. McCormack declared a mistrial during the first in March 2019 after two weeks of jury selection and testimony. The judge cited prosecutorial missteps related to an immunity agreement granted to a former Aryan Brotherhood member, and a late disclosure of evidence.

At trial, Leitess tried to convince the jury that gang member’s actions were premeditated and that they conspired to commit the murder. Elis and Patterson argued that they turned to the gang for protection and acted under duress during the murder after the gang’s leader gave an ultimatum: kill or be killed. They said their client’s actions amounted to manslaughter, not murder.

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The jury split the difference by finding Bunner and Lockner guilty of second-degree murder, which does not require premeditation but carries a longer penalty than manslaughter.

Elis and Patterson raised some of the same arguments during sentencing as they did during trial. They said their clients were minorities in a prison system where people of color are over represented. Arriving at prison at a very young age, they had to band together for protection and acted upon the gang leader’s orders.

Patterson said everything Lockner “learned about being an adult has happened in that setting.” Elis said Bunner never stood a chance after being locked up at age 18. They both pointed to testimony at trial during which prison officials highlighted a system plagued by violence where gang leaders call shots and questioned how anyone could be rehabilitated in that environment.

Both attorneys said their clients asked, even recently, about programs in the prisons to help them turn their lives around. The lawyers had no good answers, they said.

McCormack, a former public defender, agreed the trial highlighted “major problems” in Maryland’s prison system, particularly that gang members called the shots. But McCormack said she and Elis had both represented clients who went into prison at age 18 and didn’t join gangs. She called Bunner a “smart, articulate man." His actions “can’t all be blamed on the system.”

Patterson said that the letters that seemed to feature bragging about the killing were about appearance. He said the whole point of the gang was to evoke fear from other prisoners, and showing remorse would’ve been a sign of weakness that could’ve endangered them.

McCormack rejected his argument. “He certainly didn’t have to do a poem about how (stabbing) 48 times was funny,” she said of Lockner.

While Bunner declined an opportunity to speak in court Monday, Lockner expressed some remorse in comments to McCormack. He said he thought at length about what either he or Bunner could say to justify their actions, but “I know in my heart it was wrong.” Having spent most of his life behind bars, Lockner said he had to adopt a certain way of thinking because an attack could happen at any moment.

Patterson and Elis both asked McCormack to issue a sentence concurrent to those their clients were already serving, so that Lockner and, particularly, Bunner had a chance at seeing the light of day. They also said they should be credited for the time they served after the mistrial because that was the prosecution’s fault, not the prisoners. Showing a sliver of mercy, McCormack credited them for 897 days.

Brian Hare, 32, the third participant in the fatal stabbing, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder last February for his part in the killing. He has not yet been sentenced. Joseph Leissler, 51, is slated to stand trial in May. In addition to murder offenses, he has been charged with counts related to leading a gang whose activities led to the death of another person.

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After Bunner and Lockner were sentenced, a contingent of armed prison guards clad in green fatigues and Kevlar vests shackled Bunner and Lockner’s hands, waists and feet. As they began to walk out of the courtroom, their faces inked with symbols of hate, McCormack offered a parting shot.

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“Good luck to you.”

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