After testifying to poor prison conditions amid the pandemic, a man allegedly involved in a non-fatal shooting and robbery was denied a motion for a speedy trial on July 29. Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Lynn Stewart Mays also denied a motion to suppress the victim’s identification of the defendant.
Baltimore resident Johnathan Williams allegedly robbed two people at gunpoint in a motel on the 1400 block of Bloomingdale Avenue on Oct. 27, 2019. Twenty minutes later, after police reported hearing shots fired, Williams, 35, was arrested nearby for a hit and run.
Police found Williams with a loaded firearm.
After being taken to the site of the car accident, one of the victims of the robbery identified Williams as the robber.
During a hearing on Thursday, Williams’ defense attorney, Isabel Lipman, filed a motion for a speedy trial, arguing for the case be dismissed due to the amount of time her client has waited for a trial.
According to Lipman, Williams has been incarcerated without a trial date for one year and 9 months. Williams’ case was first heard in reception court on July 8.
Williams testified about the difficult conditions in prison during COVID-19. He said he has not been able to talk to his family since the start of the pandemic, and he has been frequently isolated in his cell.
The prosecution argued that the delay in setting a trial was not prejudicial because the effects of the pandemic were out of the court’s control.
Judge Mays agreed with the prosecution and denied the motion.
Lipman also filed a motion to suppress witness identification. She entered three pieces of body camera footage into evidence and called the officer who was present during the identification as a witness.
As the footage played, the officer explained what led to the robbery victim’s identification at the scene of the car accident.
Lipman said that identification was impermissible because the victim’s description of the suspect was vague and his estimation of the suspect’s height was five inches less than Williams’ height. The identification also took place when Williams was already in handcuffs, which she said introduced bias.
However, the prosecutor said the identification was reliable because of the bright lighting at the crime scene and the close proximity of the victim to the robber’s unmasked face.
Judge Mays sided with the prosecution and denied the motion to suppress identification.
After announcing her rulings, Judge Mays then allowed the parties to discuss a plea.
The prosecution offered Williams a plea of 10 years for firearm possession with a felony conviction, three years for carrying a handgun on his person, and one year for committing a hit-and-run accident. Under the plea, which Williams rejected, the sentences would have been served consecutively.
Lipman declined to put forth a counteroffer, and the case was set to go to trial on Aug. 18.
In addition to the counts in the plea offer, Williams also faces charges for attempted first and second-degree murder, firearm use in a violent crime, firing a gun in the city, armed robbery, robbery, false imprisonment, theft of less than $100, carrying a gun within 100 feet of a public place, possession of a stolen firearm, illegal possession of ammunition, failing to stop, failing to return, and failing to remain. He is also charged with two counts of first and second-degree assault.