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Judge reduces sentence for man convicted in 1999 shooting

October 15, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

A New York man who was sentenced in 1999 to serve 45 years in prison on charges that he shot a man three times on a Hagerstown street had his sentence cut nearly in half by a Washington County judge Tuesday.

Nikki James, 30, was convicted by a jury in July 1999 of attempted second-degree murder and seven other charges related to a Jan. 12, 1998, nonfatal shooting in the 200 block of North Jonathan Street.

Kurrian Grasty, who was 18 at the time, was struck three times. His cousin, Timothy Nealy, was standing nearby.

In September 1999, Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone sentenced James to the maximum 30-year sentence for attempted second-degree murder and to an additional 15 years for use of a handgun in a crime of violence. James also received a 20-year sentence for first-degree assault, but it was to be served concurrently.

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In July, Maryland Court of Special Appeals Judge James A. Kenney vacated James' sentence and ordered that Washington County schedule a second sentencing hearing for James before a different judge.

Kenney ruled that during James' 1999 sentencing, Boone made statements that since have been ruled impermissible by the state's high court.

Following oral arguments Tuesday, Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright reduced James' sentence to 18 years in prison on the attempted second-degree murder charge and 18 years on a first-degree assault charge, to be served concurrently.

Wright added five years, to make a total of 23 years, for a charge of unlawful use of a handgun. The remaining charges were not considered for sentencing.

Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Arthur Rozes argued in favor of the full 30-year sentence on the attempted murder charge, partly because Grasty still has a bullet lodged in his spine as a result of the shooting.

James' attorney, Mary Riley, said Wright should consider a shorter sentence because the original trial evidence was weak. Grasty was in a New Jersey prison at the time of the trial, and Nealy was in a Maryland prison. They were the only men who saw the shooting, Riley said.

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