Sierra Rose Hammond took matters in her own hands when her teenage son was locked up on murder charges last year.
The Northeast Baltimore mother met her son’s defense attorney to review the video evidence and secretly recorded a copy of detectives speaking to the boy’s co-defendant. She posted her copy to Instagram and plotted over the phone for the co-defendant to be hurt behind bars.
“All rats must go,” she said on a recorded call from the jail.
The mother of five pleaded guilty in September to witness intimidation. The felony crime brings as much as 20 years in prison, but under terms of her plea agreement Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn sentenced Hammond, 33, to one year in prison and two years of probation. The judge suspended the rest of a five year prison sentence.
Hammond did not address the court. Her defense attorney, Alan Cohen, did not return messages.
When asked about the plea deal, the spokeswoman for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office said prosecutors consider a defendant’s criminal record when offering a deal. Online court records show no previous criminal cases against Hammond.
“Understanding the unprecedented hurdles our prosecutors face every day with the ‘Stop Snitching’ culture that exists in this city, our office has always taken allegations of witness intimidation seriously, which is why we charged the defendant in the first place,” spokeswoman Zy Richardson wrote in an email. “We made a recommendation to the Judge to impose a sentence well within the State Sentencing guidelines.”
The case marked a rare prosecution of witness intimidation by the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office. Police and prosecutors have long been hobbled in the crime fight by the city’s “stop snitching” culture. Murder witnesses are often reluctant to testify at trial, and cases fall apart.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has called Baltimore the home of “stop snitching.” A notorious DVD circulated the streets more than a decade ago warning people to stay silent. Mosby has said more than one-third of criminal cases her office drops are because of uncooperative witnesses or victims.
Social media pages on sites such as Instagram carry threats, identify suspected police cooperators — often mistakenly — and even demand payment.
Hammond’s case traces back to the murder of Joseph Betts in July 2020. He was shot in in the 800 block of Low Street in the Jonestown neighborhood. Surveillance cameras captured the moments before the murder and police arrested two teenagers, her son Ky’sean Hammond and Tyron Taylor. Hammond was 14 years old at the time, Taylor, 18.
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Police charged the teens as adults with first-degree murder. They’re accused of killing Betts, who was homeless, after a fight over a $1 bill. Taylor allegedly pulled the trigger, but he named Hammond’s son as his accomplice.
First-degree murder brings a maximum sentence of life in prison. Ky’sean Hammond’s defense attorney, Tony Garcia, has tried to have the boy’s case transferred to juvenile court where sentences are shorter, but he was denied. Both teens are scheduled for trial next year.
Garcia said he met the Ky’sean Hammond’s mother to review the boy’s case and he played her the video of Taylor’s police interview. Garcia told her not to record and she couldn’t have a copy. No one knew she was filming it with her cellphone, Garcia said.
“I only recorded seven minutes of it,” she said later on the recorded jail call. “I had to keep the phone in my lap.”
In addition to posting the video to her son’s Instagram page, Hammond provided Taylor’s name, physical description and date of birth to another prisoner with understanding that he would arrange for the co-defendant to be harmed, according to court records.
“I’m gonna send the word over there tomorrow when I throw out the trash he a rat,” the prisoner, Justin Jeffries, said on the recorded jail call.
Jeffries told her he would get the co-defendant “wore out.”