- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The final sentencing for a 23-year-old Lexington Park man who took part in a brutal August 2012 beating in Waldorf resulted in a longer sentence than those of any of his co-defendants.
Appearing before retired Circuit Judge Robert C. Nalley on Thursday, Jerrod Lamont Benson received a 90-year combined term for the Aug. 2012 beating of a newspaper deliveryman, John Bergling, along with an attack on a different individual days before the Bergling assault.
Benson was found guilty in April of all charges, including attempted first-degree murder. One of his co-defendants, Derrick Jamar Thompson, was the first to stand trial and wasn’t found guilty of attempted first-degree murder or conspiracy to commit the same, but was found guilty on all other counts including attempted second-degree murder. Thompson received a 26½ year term.
Gregory Lee Boseman pleaded guilty to first-degree assault shortly after Thompson’s conviction and received a 25-year term. Another co-defendant who agreed to cooperate with the state in their investigation, Andrew Lee Washam, received 18 months.
Charges against a fifth man, Kenneth Dionel Brawner, were dropped in May.
Bergling was attacked in the early morning hours Aug. 5, 2012, while on his normal delivery route on Ryon Court in Waldorf, near the Charles County Sheriff’s Office District III station. Bergling was jumped three separate times, stripped naked and beaten to the point of blindness. He narrowly escaped a fourth assault and crawled naked and bloody to the police station.
In court Thursday, Assistant State’s Attorney Jeremy Widder said at the time of the attack, Benson was out on probation for an armed robbery. He also noted how Benson was part of a jailhouse assault on Washam and his role in orchestrating a prison riot.
“This is somebody who has demonstrated no ability to conform his conduct to the laws of society,” Widder said. “This was a heinous, vicious, brutal, senseless assault. There was no provocation, no reason. ... [Bergling’s] life and his wife’s were changed irreparably that night.”
As with the previous three sentencings, a letter Bergling wrote to the court was read aloud in lieu of him physically speaking at the sentencing. In the letter, Bergling wrote that an apology from Benson would be “a lame gesture” at this point” and called him a “violent, remorseless, dangerous man.”
Benson’s defense attorney, Kimberly Righter, emphasized that while she feels sorry for Bergling and his ordeal, Benson did not act as the ringleader in the assault and said he doesn’t deserve to be treated differently than Boseman or Thompson.
“I’ve seen a great deal of compassion from Mr. Benson. ... He’s a young man. Don’t throw him away,” Righter said. “He ... wants to continue to learn and grow and be a better person.”
Benson’s mother, who asked that her name be withheld, said she knows her son “has a good heart” and asked for “mercy and sympathy” for him.
Benson said he knows he put himself “in a bad situation” and called his behavior that night “a senseless act. It was heartless. It was ruthless.”
Nalley ruminated for some time before delivering the sentence: 80 years for the attempted murder and 10 for the assault prior to Bergling’s.
Nalley called Benson “vicious and dangerous.”
“I’ve certainly known a number of people who successfully murdered folks ... who I don’t consider as dangerous as Mr. Benson,” Nalley said. “The only motive in these two cases was entertainment, physically hurting other people for the perverse pleasure of it.”
Speaking to a reporter after the trial, Bergling said while he feels Washam can be rehabilitated, there is little hope for the other three. Regardless, Bergling said, his faith has given him the strength to forgive them all.
“The Lord taught me that ... but they don’t get a free pass,” Bergling said. “I can’t carry that around in my heart. ... Through having no regard for my life, they wrecked theirs.”
Bergling said he was content with the length of Benson’s term but would have liked to have seen longer sentences for Boseman and Thompson. Bergling also spoke of how Washam came to him directly to shake his hand, apologize and ask for forgiveness.
“He was in tears,” Bergling said of Washam. “ ... I think I shook him up ... when I told him I forgive him.”
“Boseman seemed ... sorry because he thought it would get him a lighter sentence,” Bergling said, adding that he never received any sort of apology from Thompson. “I don’t think they’re redeemable people.”
Bergling said he’s surprised to have lived through the ordeal.
“I guarantee I’m here because God is real. I’m here because of His grace. It just wasn’t my time to die,” Bergling said.