A Baltimore teenager accused in the fatal stabbing of another teen after the Ravens 2013 Super Bowl victory parade agreed Tuesday to a plea deal that allowed him to avoid more jail time.
On the day his second trial was to begin, Nazr Williams, 17, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a sentence of 30 years, with all but time served suspended.
He was in jail for one year, seven months and 18 days before and after the first trial that ended in a hung jury. He was to be released after his latest court appearance.
In the hallway after the sentencing, the grandmother of 15-year-old victim Deontae Smith consoled a sobbing relative. Williams also was 15 at the time of the attack.
"We weren't pleased with it at all," Sharon Price said. "Thirty years wasn't even sufficient. My grandson lost his life. It's just a hard pill to swallow."
Price was at Williams' trial in January, when a jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. Eleven jurors wanted to acquit Williams while one believed he should be found guilty. Though the incident took place amid a large crowd, the prosecution's case relied on a reluctant witness.
State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a statement that given questions about the credibility of the lone witness and the failure of two other witnesses to come forward, "most prosecutors would have walked away from this case."
"But we were ready to try it for a second time," she said. "The death of a 15-year-old at the hands of yet another 15-year-old is an unspeakable tragedy that no sentence can ever adequately address."
Williams was placed on five years' probation. If he violates probation, he could be ordered to serve any of the suspended time from his sentence.
Williams' attorney, who had criticized police work and evidence in the case, said Tuesday that it was mishandled from the start. He said the case should have been adjudicated in juvenile court.
"This case serves to highlight the senselessness of prosecuting children as adults," said James Johnston, the supervising attorney of the public defender's youthful defendant unit. "I am convinced justice would have better been served had Nazr's case been transferred to juvenile court."
Juveniles charged with murder are automatically assigned to adult court, and Williams' petition to move the case to juvenile court was denied. In juvenile court, the focus is on treatment rather than punishment. Juvenile defendants aren't held past 21 years old and avoid an adult criminal record.
Assistant State's Attorney Angela Diehl told jurors that Williams and a group of friends from the west side skipped school on Feb. 5, 2013, to attend the Ravens parade and bumped into an east-side group that included Smith. A fight ensured, and three people were stabbed. Smith died from four stab wounds.
Smith loved to dance and was part of an outfit known as the "Brovahood," which performed at the Paradox Club and elsewhere around the Inner Harbor.
His family and the city police union criticized police officials for initially downplaying the stabbing — there was a delay in dispersing real-time information about the crime to the public, and at first officials said the incident wasn't related to the parade.
According to testimony at the earlier trial, city homicide detectives had no suspects until five months after the killing, when they got a call from authorities in Western Maryland who said a teenager at a juvenile detention facility there had information about the case.
The teen, whose name was not previously among the leads police were pursuing, said he was part of the fight and identified Williams — who was being held at the same juvenile facility — as the killer.
He decided to come forward because "he was mad when he saw [Williams] — that he got to walk around and breathe the air while his friend was six feet under," Diehl told jurors.
The witness testified he also had other reasons to be angry at Williams. They had fought at Patterson High School a year before fighting at the parade, and when they ended up at the same 36-bed juvenile detention facility in June 2013 in Garrett County, they got into a fight again. The witness told authorities that the day he came forward, Williams had hit him in the face with a belt buckle.
Johnston told jurors that the witness had an ax to grind and should not be trusted. The defense attorney also questioned why police had only obtained video footage from two cameras when the incident took place in the heavily wired downtown business district.
The jury was unable to reach a verdict, resulting in a mistrial.
Williams appeared in court on Tuesday wearing khakis, glasses, and a polo shirt that read Eager Street Academy — a school within the Baltimore City Detention Center complex for youths charged as adults.
A sheriff's deputy initially would not allow his family into the courtroom. During that time, Price, Smith's grandmother, said she addressed Judge Charles Peters about her concerns over the plea deal.
When others were allowed in the courtroom, Williams answered questions from Peters, indicating that he understood the consequences of pleading guilty.
Peters asked Williams if he had any questions.
"When I go home, can I get a job?" Williams asked. Someone in the back of the courtroom laughed.
Peters said getting a job could be a requirement of his probation but warned that his conviction could pose problems with him getting one.
Afterward, Price said she believed the witness testimony at trial should have been enough to convict.
"Come Judgment Day, it's going to be the same," she said.