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Inmate found guilty in assault of MCTC officer

Gary Jonathan Cooper sentenced to six years

May 13, 2010|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN -- The third trial for a state prison inmate charged with assaulting a Maryland Correctional Training Center officer three years ago ended Thursday with a jury finding the man guilty in Washington County Circuit Court.

The jury deliberated about 15 minutes before finding Gary Jonathan Cooper, 23, guilty of second-degree assault on a correctional officer.

Cooper was tried and convicted of the charge in November 2007, but the conviction was overturned on appeal, Assistant State's Attorney Brett Wilson said after the trial. Cooper was tried again in February, but that trial ended with a hung jury, Wilson said.

Circuit Judge John H. McDowell sentenced Cooper to six years in prison, to be served consecutive to the sentence he currently is serving. Cooper was convicted in 2001 in Baltimore City of two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of using a handgun to commit a crime of violence and is serving a 20-year sentence, according to court records.

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Cooper was charged in the MCTC case with assaulting Officer Ty Stepler on May 2, 2007, according to the application for statement of charges.

Wilson told the jury the case was "straightforward," but Assistant Public Defender Charles Bailey said the officers "wanted to teach Mr. Cooper a lesson" for not obeying an order from a female officer.

Correctional Officer Shannon Singleton testified for the prosecution that she was conducting a count of inmates the afternoon of May 2, 2007, and that Cooper and two other inmates would not stand. She testified she reported it to Lt. Doug Webb.

Webb testified he told Cooper that he would be placed in administration segregation and told him to pack up his personal belongings. After Cooper put his belongings into a cart and took them out of the cell, Webb testified the inmate "looked jittery at that point and I instructed Officer Stepler to place him in handcuffs."

"Inmate Cooper went into a boxing-like stance," Webb testified.

When Stepler approached him, Cooper punched him in the face, Webb testified.

Cooper testified that when Singleton came to his cell for the count, he stood on a chair, because his cellmate was using the toilet and there was little room in the cell. Cooper's cellmate, Toby Payne, who is his brother, testified in Cooper's defense.

Cooper testified Payne told him to speak to Webb to see if the punishment could be reduced.

"Come on, this is frivolous. This is petty," Cooper testified he told Webb.

Webb pulled out a can of pepper spray, at which point, Cooper testified, he put out his hands.

"I said, 'Put the cuffs on me,'" Cooper testified.

He testified he never struck Stepler, but was sprayed three times with pepper spray.

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