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Judge to determine if 17-year-old should be tried as adult

January 10, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

A Washington County Circuit Court judge will decide next week whether a teenager charged with removing a stolen handgun from the scene of an accidental shooting of a 2-year-old will be tried as an adult, or have her case transferred to juvenile court.

Judge Donald E. Beachley said he will announce on Jan. 19, if 17-year-old Fantaisa Shantal Rivera of Hagerstown should be tried as an adult.

Monday’s transfer hearing for Rivera revealed new details about the shooting of Mario Longus on the morning of Sept. 27, 2010. The toddler shot himself in the chest with a stolen handgun, which Hagerstown police said was left under a bed in his family’s apartment on Little Elliott Drive.

Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson said at the hearing that Rivera is accused of removing the gun from the apartment, hiding it in a playground and lying to police. She did so because Mario Longus’ older brother, 16-year-old Marcus Deon Longus, was on home detention wearing an electronic monitor and could not leave the apartment, he said.

Rivera’s attorney, Bernard W. Semler II, said during the hearing that the gun was stolen and brought to the apartment by two unidentified individuals.

Mario Longus survived the shooting and is in a rehabilitation center, Wilson said after the hearing.

Marcus Longus and Rivera were charged with obstructing, police, making false statements to police, leaving a firearm accessible to an unsupervised minor, theft of less than $1,000, possession of a firearm and ammunition by a person younger than 21, according to criminal informations filed by the State’s Attorney’s Office. Marcus Longus also was charged with possession of a regulated firearm by a juvenile delinquent, court records said.

Both are scheduled for trial on Jan. 24, court records said. Marcus Longus also was scheduled for a hearing to transfer his case to juvenile court, but Assistant Public Defender Loren Villa asked for a postponement because she had not reviewed the findings of a 36-page Department of Juvenile Services report with Longus.

“I do know what the recommendation is,” Villa told Beachley without saying what the report recommended. The report has some “very serious ramifications” for Longus, Villa said, adding that the request for transfer to juvenile court might be withdrawn.

Semler argued that Rivera is amenable to treatment as a juvenile through foster care, a group home, detention, counseling or other programs not offered to her before.

Police were dispatched to the apartment at 1:16 a.m. Sept. 27 to find Mario Longus with a gunshot wound to his chest, the statement of probable cause said. There were nine people in the apartment and five of them, including Mario and Marcus Longus, and Rivera, were in the bedroom when the gun went off, the statement said.

Police determined the handgun belonged to a federal law enforcement officer living in Keedysville and was stolen from his vehicle on Sept. 7, the statement of probable cause said.

Rivera, who is out on bail, testified Monday that she was in a relationship with Marcus Longus for six years and visited him three times in the Washington County Detention Center since his arrest after the shooting. Asked if she would continue to do so, Rivera testified, “Probably ... because we’re friends.”

William Harvey, a case-management specialist with the Department of Juvenile Services, testified that Rivera went to visit Marcus Longus in the Western Maryland Children’s Center in March when he was being held on other charges. Rivera got into the center with other members of Longus’ family, representing herself as his sister, Harvey testified.

During the visit, Longus physically assaulted Rivera, an act caught on a surveillance camera, but Rivera refused to admit being struck by Longus, Greg Spickler, an investigator with the State’s Attorney’s Office, testified.

Steven Nelson of Juvenile Services testified that it was appropriate to charge Rivera as an adult, citing as one reason her apparent unwillingness to follow directions from authority figures.

“It can change,” Rivera said, when Wilson asked if she could work with authority figures.

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