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Defendants in motel shooting enter new pleas

April 06, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Three defendants in a 1997 motel shooting returned to Washington County Circuit Court on Tuesday to enter new pleas, three months after the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed earlier convictions and negated stiffer sentences.

- Reshen Bathers, 20, pleaded guilty Tuesday to attempted armed robbery and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

In January 1998, Bathers was sentenced to 30 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of attempted second-degree murder, attempted armed robbery and a handgun violation that carried a mandatory five-year sentence.

- James Smalls, 22, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit armed robbery and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

A jury convicted him in January 1998 of attempted armed robbery and reckless endangerment. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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- Shacore Little, 20, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

In January 1998, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempted armed robbery.

All three men were returned to the Eastern Correctional Institution where they had remained even though their convictions had been reversed.

"Reluctantly, this was an agreement that everyone had to go with," said Washington County Circuit Judge Kennedy Boone. "I'm not happy about it but the possibility of a new trial was a good possibility."

Boone said he believes he committed harmless error at the trial when he twice communicated with jurors outside the presence of the attorneys or defendants.

The higher court said in its opinion last December that defendants and attorneys are entitled to be present whenever a jury has questions while it is deliberating.

The case stems from a May 20, 1997, shooting at Motel 6 in Halfway.

Unaffected by the higher court's decision was the sentence of a fourth defendant, Mandy Louise Nunemaker, 22, of Hagerstown, who pleaded guilty in December 1997 to attempted armed robbery.

She was given a 15-year suspended sentence, placed on probation for five years and ordered to submit to drug treatment.

Nunemaker testified for the prosecution, saying she was in the company of the three defendants at the motel when the shooting occurred.

Neither the defendants nor the victim, Steven McCormick, 33, of Crisfield, Md., testified during the two-day trial.

McCormick, who was shot in the upper chest, was hospitalized from May 21 to May 30, 1997, at Washington County Hospital.

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