19-Year-Old Pleads Guilty to Lesser Charge in Fatal Brawl
Thursday, January 31, 2008
A 19-year-old former wrestling champ from Columbia pleaded guilty this week to voluntary manslaughter in the death of another teen during a brawl last year outside a Howard County high school, a confrontation that authorities now say involved about two dozen participants in a prearranged rematch of an earlier fight.
Kevin F. Klink, who was initially charged with murder, entered the plea Tuesday and, under the terms of his plea agreement, is to be sentenced Feb. 26 to 13 years in prison, said Wayne Kirwan, a spokesman for the county state's attorney's office.
Robert Brazell Jr., 18, of Ellicott City was fatally injured when he was struck in the head with an aluminum bat during the fight outside Mount Hebron High School, which involved young men mostly connected to that school or to Hammond High School in Columbia. Klink, who graduated in 2006 from Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, also pleaded guilty to carrying a dangerous weapon.
According to a statement of facts attached to the plea arrangement, Klink said he was defending a friend under attack from the victim. The statement said that Klink "honestly, but unreasonably believed that the force that he used was necessary." According to the statement, one witness said he saw Klink "hold a black, aluminum bat with both hands, and use a full 'homerun' swing as the bat hit the back of Robert Brazell's head," though the victim was unarmed.
Kirwan said yesterday that prosecutors would not comment on the plea arrangement "because it is still an active case." Calls to Klink's family and his attorney, as well as to Brazell's parents, were not returned. A friend of Brazell's has been charged with assault and is being tried as a juvenile.
According to the statement, investigators learned that a group of male students at Mount Hebron were at a party earlier that night and "began to exchange phone calls with a student from Atholton High School," attempting to set up "a rematch of an altercation" that had occurred Feb. 19 near Town and Country Boulevard.
About 15 Mount Hebron students left the party and went to a field outside their school, where they encountered an opposing group that included Klink and an unidentified participant who "each carried a bat." The two groups began "yelling threats and profanities to each other," and the brawl ensued.
Klink told police that "he was standing on the outskirts of the fight, alert to anyone approaching him from behind when he saw that his friend . . . was being beaten by three males."
"The defendant said he then took a level swing with the bat and connected with what he thought was the male's shoulder area," the statement said. "The male then hit the ground, but maybe got back up. The defendant stated that he ran, telling his friends that things went bad."