A man who was labeled a Public Enemy No. 1 by city police, and who declared his innocence on Facebook after being charged with killing two teens in a firebombing in East Baltimore last year, was acquitted Friday.
As the verdict was read in Baltimore Circuit Court, Antonio T. Wright, 27, wiped away tears and hugged his attorney, Warren Brown.
“I’m elated,” Brown said of the verdict, which cleared Wright of charges including two counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder for the firebombing that occurred at a home on Greenmount Avenue on March 18, 2017.
Shi-heem Sholto, 19, and Tyrone James, 17, died in the blaze, and their friend Micha Pinkney, 21, was left in critical condition after jumping onto a sidewalk three floors below to escape the flames. She recovered after months in the hospital.
Five others, including Micha’s mother, sister, two young brothers and a friend, escaped the flames.
Pinkney, her sister Mykia Pinkney, 19, and their mother were the state’s key witnesses. Each testified to seeing Wright outside the home the evening before the fire. Micha Pinkney had testified she and her sister had heard Wright call across the street to them that “somebody going to get it tonight.”
Prosecutors alleged the firebombing stemmed from a shooting at the home two days prior that injured a friend of the Pinkney sisters.
Charges related to that shooting are still pending against Wright, said Brown, who is not representing him in that case. A trial date is scheduled for July 16, court records show.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who is running for re-election, has touted that her office has convicted every Public Enemy No. 1 case that has gone to trial. Melba Saunders, a spokeswoman for the office, said in a statement: “We believe we identified the individual who committed this heinous crime; however, a jury of his peers decided otherwise and we respect their decision. We will continue to support the victims and their loved ones as they continue to heal from this horrible experience.”
During closing arguments Friday, assistant state’s attorney Elizabeth Stock showed jurors pictures of the badly charred home, interspersed with pictures of the home before the fire.
Brown had argued that the state’s case was weak, and said prosecutors lacked any evidence beyond the family connecting his client to the firebombing — or the earlier shooting.
“What have you heard that he’s the type of person who would do that?” Brown asked jurors.
Brown said the statements made by the Pinkney sisters and their mother contradicted each other, including the clothing they claimed his client was wearing that evening. Mykia Pinkney said she saw Wright in all black clothing, hanging out across the street from the house the evening of the fire, but her sister testified he had been wearing a teal jacket and light blue jeans.
Micha Pinkney had testified that she was in her third-floor room with Sholto and James the night of the fire. She told jurors that after she jumped from her bedroom, she thought Sholto and James would jump after her, but they did not.
She remained in the hospital for months after, recovering from a broken pelvis and having a portion of her skull replaced.
After authorities named Wright a "Public Enemy No. 1" and offered a $12,000 reward for information leading to his arrest, he turned himself in two days later, proclaiming his innocence while live-streaming on Facebook.
"I did not commit this crime," Wright said. "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."
Wright’s wife, Nicole Edwards, also testified Friday, saying her husband was at their Preston Street home the night of the firebombing. She said she was getting ready for work early in the morning, before the incident, and saw her husband asleep on the couch.
Stock alleged that Edwards was covering for her husband.
James’ sister, Tyshae James, 20, said outside the courtroom that her family still has lingering questions about what happened.
“We don’t really know,” she said.
Tanisha Hargrove, 18, James’ girlfriend, said James was the type of person who put himself before others. She said he had attended Northwestern High School and later took part in a job program.
“It’s still unreal,” Hargrove said.
A woman who identified herself as Sholto’s mother declined to comment, as did Wright’s wife and mother after the verdict.