- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
An Indian Head man charged with attempted murder was released from jail Feb. 10 after pleading guilty to assault and gun charges and receiving a suspended 23-year prison sentence.
Nearly four months after Charles County Judge Helen I. Harrington declared a mistrial in his case, Melvin Wayne Brown Jr., 29, entered Alford pleas to two counts of second-degree assault and one count of carrying a handgun, according to court records.
An Alford plea acknowledges that the state has enough evidence to convict the defendant, but does not admit guilt.
Per his plea agreement, Harrington sentenced Brown to 10 years for each count of assault, three years for the gun charge and five years of unsupervised probation, the records state. He was released after the judge gave him credit for the 232 days he already had spent in jail and suspended the balance of his sentence.
The plea came three days before Brown was to stand trial for the second time, made possible Oct. 19 when Harrington declared the initial proceedings a mistrial by “manifest destiny,” which acknowledges the invalidation of an ongoing trial by unforeseeable circumstances while allowing for reprosecution without violating a defendant’s right to not be tried twice for the same offense, known as double jeopardy.
The ruling came three days into Brown’s original trial, when Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney John Stackhouse told Harrington that a witness in the case had accused Brown of offering him money to either not testify or testify a certain way.
Stackhouse told the judge Brown had placed two hours of recorded telephone calls from prison to several witnesses, offering to buy their testimony.
Wishing to use the phone calls as evidence in the trial, Stackhouse asked that the proceedings be delayed, but Harrington determined it was impractical to have the jury members return more than a week later and declared a mistrial instead.
Brown originally was charged following a May 3 fight between two men outside of some apartments on Ell Lane in Waldorf, during which one of the men pulled a gun and fired 11 rounds at the other, each bullet missing its target, according to charging papers. However, some of the bullets entered a nearby apartment where people, including children, were inside, the papers state.
The shooting occurred across the street from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office district station. Officers who heard the shooting ran over in time to see a man matching Brown’s description fleeing the scene, Stackhouse told the jury in October.
A witness later identified Brown as the shooter and officers executing a search warrant on his apartment found a gun box and bullet shells that matched the casings found at the scene, Stackhouse said.
Brown was originally indicted May 20 on counts of attempted first- and second-degree murder, first-degree assault, five counts of reckless endangerment and various gun charges.
He was indicted again Feb. 3 on counts of first- and second-degree assault, using a handgun in commission of a violent crime and carrying a handgun, according to online court records.
In exchange for his plea, prosecutors amended the two counts of first-degree assault to second-degree assault and dropped the remaining charges, according to court papers.
Prosecutors also agreed to not charge Brown in connection with the alleged attempts to buy witnesses’ testimony.