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Remember Allen Bullock, the face of rioting in Baltimore? Here's what happened to him

You may not remember his name, but you probably remember the fun he had after Freddie Gray died.

Gray died two years ago on Sunday, April 19, 2015, from injuries sustained a week earlier in the back of a police van. Peaceful protests over his treatment had begun the night before. After his death, tensions between the Baltimore community and police simmered. As national and international media focused on Baltimore, protests swelled, and street insults got ugly, but things remained relatively calm. On Saturday, the 25th, they finally boiled over. A march from the west side toward City Hall crossed the paths of the crowd heading to an Orioles game.

At South Howard and West Pratt a jubilant mob caught up with several parked police cars, marked and unmarked. According to charging documents, 18-year-old Allen Bullock led a celebration of destruction. Using an orange traffic cone, he broke out the side window of an unmarked police car and tried to use its public-address system; failing in the attempt, he ripped it out. With other men he tried and failed to flip the car. He mounted the hood and used the cone to smash in the windshield. With two other young men he danced on several of the car roofs, and kicked out the rear window of another unmarked car. In another marked police car he found a peaked police cap and set it on his head at a rakish angle (he would later post a photograph of himself wearing the hat on his Facebook page). Social and other media captured much of the party. Mr. Bullock and his traffic cone made the front page of Sunday's Baltimore Sun.

The incident released four nights and days of mayhem, Baltimore's worst rioting since April 1968. Our city got a black eye from which it is still trying to recover.

On April 27, police took Mr. Bullock into custody at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, where he was set to meet with his probation officer. He was charged with eight criminal counts, including rioting and malicious destruction of property. A district court judge approved bail of half a million dollars. On May 7, his mother put up the needed 10 percent of the money to get him out: She paid the bondsmen $15,000 in cash, and agreed to pay them another $35,000 in 70 monthly installments of $500, according to court records.

Mr. Bullock's antics violated his juvenile probation, leading Judge Sylvester Cox to banish him to Victor Cullen, the juvenile lockup in Frederick County. On Oct. 3, 2015, Mr. Bullock apparently boiled over again.

According to the statement of charges filed by a state police trooper, Mr. Bullock was being escorted in the early evening to the medical unit on the campus of Victor Cullen. He broke free and ran through the grounds. Staffers caught up with him; he pushed a woman to the ground, and she rolled downhill. He also swung his fist and spit at a man. Other staffers finally corralled him.

The Victor Cullen staff told the trooper that they believed Mr. Bullock was a member of the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) gang in Baltimore and that he had incited a number of fights at the facility between residents from Baltimore City and their rivals from Prince George's County. Mr. Bullock was charged as an adult with two counts of misdemeanor assault in Frederick County Circuit Court. He posted bond of only $3,000 and was released from juvenile custody shortly before Christmas.

On Feb. 29, 2016, Mr. Bullock came to court on the rioting charges in Baltimore City before Circuit Court Judge Charles J. Peters. Judge Peters is the judge-in-charge for criminal matters. He does not try cases; he moves them along as best he can. If he does not have another judge open for trial, he postpones the case. He also accepts plea agreements. If the plea bargains are not quite ripe, he does what he can to nourish them to fruition — as he did in Mr. Bullock's case according to a recording of the hearing.

With the white noise on to prevent others from overhearing, Judge Peters conferred at the bench with the prosecutor, Assistant State's Attorney Mark Jaskulski, and counsel for the defendant, J. Wyndal Gordon.

Mr. Gordon presented the judge with his idea of an appropriate sentence: A 15-year-suspended sentence, with credit for the eight months he served in juvenile detention and five years of probation.

"I've seen videotapes of people jumping on police cars. Is this supposed to be the guy who was jumping on the police car?" the judge asked, referring to Mr. Bullock. Mr. Gordon answered, "He is one of the guys."

Mr. Jaskulski asked for 11 years incarceration.

Judge Peters: "I guess what's happened here is the state wants to make an example of him. Is that what it is? ... I'm not upset if that's what the reality is. Trust me, I see a lot of cases coming in through here, and this is basically, unfortunately, malicious destruction. It happened to be a police car, it happened to be very well publicized, but I see malicious destruction impacting private citizens all the time coming in here. I don't get anywhere near that kind of [prosecutorial] response."

Mr. Gordon said he suggested additional time that would hang over Mr. Bullock's head if he were to violate probation to "appease the state." Judge Peters replied, "I'm not worried about appeasing the state. I mean, it's OK, I get it. I'm just trying to figure out, trying to keep this moving."

Judge Peters made no inquiries about the past juvenile offenses or the pending adult ones. There is nothing in the public record about asking Mr. Bullock to pay restitution. The judge set forth his notion of a sentence: 12 years, suspending all but six months — with no credit for the time in Victor Cullen — and 5 years probation.

At this point the judge turned to other cases, presumably to let the lawyers haggle. An hour later, Mr. Bullock and the lawyers returned to court for the formal plea. The white noise was off.

Mr. Jaskulski on the record asked for five years for the count of rioting, a felony with a theoretical maximum sentence of life, and 18 months consecutive on each of three counts of malicious destruction over $1,000. Thus, the state was formally asking for nine-and-a-half years. But the judge had already made clear what he thought the case was worth.

Judge Peters told Mr. Bullock he would have to serve 400 hours community service, get his GED and write a letter of apology to the Baltimore City Police Department. "The state's recommendation seems perfectly appropriate based on the outrageous conduct that you did," the judge said. But, he added, "you were 18 years old, and I'm going to give you one chance, OK?"

Judge Peters told the defendant that any violation of the conditions of probation would result in "a no-bail warrant" and a possible sentence of 11-and-a-half years in jail: "You have one chance here." Mr. Bullock pleaded guilty, and the judge postponed formal sentencing for one month.

On March 24, five days before sentencing, Mr. Jaskulski filed with the court a "State's Notice of Supplemental Sentencing Information." This document advised Judge Peters that "the defendant had, prior to his guilty plea, posted video online of himself holding and playing with a firearm." It continued: "Additionally, there is a Facebook video the defendant created of himself and his friends after leaving court on February 29, 2016. ... In the video the defendant is mocking the terms of his guilty plea as his friends flash gang signs at the camera. In addition, in the video, the defendant is seen passing around and smoking a marijuana blunt which he explicitly asks for and refers to as a 'blunt.'"

Mr. Gordon filed no response to this notice.

On March 29, 2016, the parties duly reported to Judge Peters for sentencing. There was no discussion of the supplemental sentencing information. Neither lawyer offered anything more. Mr. Bullock said to the judge, "I apologize for everything I did. ... I'm gonna just take it like a man." The judge imposed the sentence as set forth above. He allowed nine days credit for time served when Mr. Bullock was held in jail after the initial rioting arrest.

Allen Bullock went to prison for four months. Released in July of last year, he did not report to his probation agent until near the end of August. She has not seen him since, according to a supervision summary report filed with the court; his mother told the agent her son is not living with her as he said he would. On Aug. 29, Mr. Bullock left a voicemail for his public defender in Frederick, claiming he couldn't get a ride to court.

Mr. Bullock has never made it to court in Frederick; his most recent failure to appear, according to online court records, was April 17th. A warrant for his arrest in that case was issued last month, and his bail bond was officially forfeited on March 17.

On Feb. 27, 2017, Judge Peters issued a no-bail warrant for Mr. Bullock for violation of probation in the rioting case. But it's hard to believe that if and when Mr. Bullock stands in front of Judge Peters again, he will leave the courtroom with an additional 11 years in jail. Few Baltimore City judges demand this much respect for their own probations.

Judge Peters keeps the plea factory running smoothly. He helps us not to look too hard at an offender with a violent record and a very high risk of inflicting new violence.

We give ourselves credit for not filling up the jails and prisons all over again. We give ourselves credit for not ruining the lives of young offenders. We try not to think about their victims. We live — and die — with the consequences.

Hal Riedl retired from the Maryland Division of Correction in 2010 and from the office of the state's attorney for Baltimore City in December 2014. His email is haroldriedl@gmail.com.

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