For two weeks, Lisa Richard sat on the hard wooden benches of a Baltimore County courtroom and watched the trial for the teenager accused of killing her son unfold.
The friends and family of Sebastian Dvorak — a beloved Canton bartender who was robbed and shot while walking home on Boston Street after celebrating his 27th birthday — consistently packed the tense trial, which wrapped up Friday. The jury is expected to deliver a verdict next week.
“The last thing we can do for him is make sure justice is served,” Richard said during a court recess.
Malik Mungo, 18, took the stand Thursday to testify he wasn’t the one who stole Dvorak’s phone, wallet and Nintendo Switch, or fired the gun that killed him. He admitted being in the area with another man in hopes of stealing a car, but he said the other man he knew only as “Goon” attacked, robbed and shot Dvorak. That other man has not been found or charged.
Mungo’s lawyer said his client was aggressively and unfairly targeted by law enforcement officials pursuing a high-profile case.
The state’s lawyers meanwhile urged the jurors to recall the four witnesses who testified that Mungo confessed to them that he robbed and shot Dvorak. They pointed to surveillance footage showing Mungo fleeing, and to the teenager’s shifting details and his history of lying to police.
Both sides battled over whose story jurors should trust. Mungo’s lawyer, Mark Van Bavel, said the people who testified against Mungo were criminals just looking to get themselves a better deal. Assistant Attorney General Erin Wrenn admitted the witnesses weren’t “model citizens” but insisted they were credible, with incentives to tell the truth.
Dvorak was killed two years ago, almost to the day that the trial wrapped up. His death launched Baltimore police and federal agents on a yearlong investigation that took down an East Baltimore street gang they say was led by the Bloods. The Maryland Attorney General’s Office indicted 13 people on gang conspiracy charges. The crew sold heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, oxycodone and marijuana in McElderry Park east of Johns Hopkins Hospital, according to prosecutors.
Eight of 13 defendants pleaded guilty and a ninth was convicted at trial. Three others are to be tried in August. Mungo alone is charged with killing Dvorak. Three of the convicted gang members and a fourth witness testified that Mungo admitted to shooting Dvorak.
Van Bavel disputed that Mungo was ever part of an official gang.
“There was a group of guys who sold drugs in the 500 block of Rose Street,” he said. “Were they a gang? No.”
Mungo faces a first-degree felony murder charge, along with numerous gun, gang and drug charges.
The state is still seeking another person, shown in surveillance footage running alongside Mungo in the early morning hours of June 13, 2017.
On the stand Thursday, Mungo blamed the other man, a casual acquaintance named “Goon,” for the murder. In his account Mungo said he had smoked marijuana and was walking around Canton with “Goon” looking for a car to steal.
They saw Dvorak walking up Boston Street alone.
Mungo testified that “Goon” took off running toward Dvorak with the gun. Mungo said he shouted after him and tried to talk him out of robbing the man.
Wrenn argued that Mungo’s story to police and others had changed many times since he was first arrested. He admitted on the stand to lying to FBI agents. “How can you trust him?” she asked the jurors, adding that he’d had two years to craft a version of events that absolved him of the most serious charges.
Van Bavel said Mungo was scared and did not trust law enforcement. He was 16 years old at the time of Dvorak’s killing — he’s now three days away from turning 19. The lawyer reminded jurors that Mungo grew up “on the streets” and had been through foster care.
Wrenn didn’t dispute the teenager’s hard upbringing.
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“The defendant may have been failed by many people in his life before this,” she said. “This is not the forum to address those failures.”
David Dvorak, Sebastian’s father, sat stoically through closing arguments. As a dad, he said he’s been left wondering what he could have done to prevent his son’s death.
“For Malik Mungo, really the time for intervention was probably 10 years ago,” he said.
Dvorak’s family and friends created a foundation in honor of the slain 27-year-old who loved snowboarding, the Orioles and all things Baltimore. The “Sebass Foundation” — a reference to the bartender’s nickname — aims to provide pathways towards college and careers for Baltimore kids.
Richard said the goal is to connect at-risk youth with opportunities that “widen their world so when they're faced with the decision to hold a gun, they don't want to do it.”