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Posted at 05:34 PM ET, 07/13/2012

Murder charges dropped in nightclub slaying

Prosecutors have now dropped all the murder charges stemming from a fatal shooting outside an Edmonston night club last March, saying that after they and police detectives completed their investigation, they simply could not prove who did what.

The upshot is this: no one is charged — or likely will ever be charged — with any type of homicide in the March 2011 shooting of 30-year-old Phillip J. Watson, who was gunned down in the parking lot of the Surf Club on Kenilworth Avenue after a fight inside. The man who police had initially accused of being the shooter — 25-year-old Malik Huff — did plead guilty to a first-degree assault charge, but that stemmed from the fight inside the club before the shooting, according to prosecutors and his defense attorney. He was sentenced to five years in prison Friday per his plea agreement, according to prosecutors and his defense attorney.

“The bottom line is we couldn’t prove who was responsible,” said John Erzen, a spokesman for Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, “Basically, the assault charge is all that we were able to prove from the fight that happened inside the club.”

Erzen said prosecutors considered the case “done” and were not likely to charge anyone else with murder.

From the start, the court proceedings against Huff and his co-defendant, 25-year-old Frederick L. Scott, have been troubled. In November, Scott was mistakenly released on bond after courthouse clerks inadvertently put another man’s paperwork in his file. He was re-arrested later that month after he showed up — voluntarily — at a bond hearing.

Police and prosecutors had accused Scott of driving a car in the nightclub parking lot while Huff shot Watson, according to charging documents and Huff’s defense attorney. But on the third day of Huff’s jury trial last month, they dropped the murder charge against Scott and negotiated a deal with Huff — allowing him to plead guilty to first-degree assault in connection with the fight inside the club, said Andrew Jezic, Huff’s defense attorney.

Jezic said Huff, who had been facing a possible life sentence before the plea, agreed to spend five years in prison and was formally sentenced Friday. He said Huff also avoided prosecution on obstruction charges.

Jezic said Huff had “consistently” and “vehemently” maintained his innocence, and he was satisfied with the outcome.

“Mr. Huff is gratified that he has been, in effect, exonerated of any murder or gun charges,” Jezic said.

Scott’s defense attorney could not immediately be reached for comment Friday night.

By  |  05:34 PM ET, 07/13/2012

Categories:  Matt Zapotosky, Pr. George's, Homicide, From the Courthouse

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