Former 'Public Enemy No. 1' found not guilty in 2017 shooting after acquittal in firebombing case

A man once named the city’s “Public Enemy No. 1,” who was accused of firebombing and a shooting in March 2017, has now been acquitted of all charges.

Antonio Wright, 27, was found not guilty of three counts of attempted first-degree murder Wednesday after a three-day trial, his public defender said.

“Wright is very happy to be exonerated and to be going home with his family,” assistant public defender Jerome LaCorte said Thursday. “I’m very glad the jury did the right thing.”

Prosecutors accused Wright of firing at a group of five adults and two children as they entered on a home on Greenmount Avenue on March 16, 2017. A 20-year-old was injured.

Two days later, a fire at the home killed Shi-heem Sholto, 19, and Tyrone James, 17.

Authorities named Wright "Public Enemy No. 1" and offered a $12,000 reward.

Wright turned himself in but fiercely denied involvement while live-streaming on Facebook.

"I did not commit this crime," Wright said at the time. "I won't allow them to bring me in like an animal to portray what y'all saying on TV. ... Y'all judged me before y'all even knew anything. Y'all convicted me off assumption. And I didn't do it."

Police charged him in both the shootings and the fire.

The Public Enemy No. 1 cases were a talking point during the Democratic primary for Baltimore state’s attorney. State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s campaign boasted that her office had convicted every Public Enemy No. 1 who had gone to trial. She won the primary in June.

After Wright was acquitted, the state’s attorney’s office thanked the victims for testifying.

“The witnesses took the stand after surviving a shooting, and an attempted fire bombing,” the office said in a statement. “We commend their bravery and hope they will some day heal from the physical and emotional scars that were inflicted upon them.”

The office said police declare a Public Enemy No. 1 to indicate the severity of the crime committed. It said prosecutors presented a strong case against Wright.

“[W]e work hard to effectively prosecute those suspected of these crimes,” the office said. “We presented relevant evidence to a jury in both cases, and unfortunately, the defendant was acquitted by juries of his peers, which are decisions that we must respect.”

During separate trials for the shootings and the alleged firebombing, Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Stock said the two incidents were connected. She said they stemmed from a neighborhood dispute involving the victims.

Witnesses at the firebombing trial last month testified that they saw Wright outside the home before the blaze. One woman said she saw Wright leave the home when the fire started.

But Wright’s attorney Warren Brown said witnesses’ accounts contradicted each other on details. Wright’s wife testified that she saw Wright at their home when the blaze started.

Wright was acquitted of all charges in that case.

At the shooting trial, LaCorte said the witnesses’ testimony changed over the course of the investigation and sometimes was contradictory.

“You will notice the statements of the witnesses develop” over time, LaCorte told jurors during an opening statement.

Wright could not be reached for comment Thursday. LaCorte said his client had to return to a facility in Western Maryland to begin the release process.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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