Maryland Man Arrested on Drug Charge After Being Freed in Murder Case

Sean Sykes.
Sean Sykes. (Courtesy Of Prince George's County - Courtesy Of Prince George's County)
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By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 13, 2009

An 18-year-old murder defendant who had been released without bond by a Prince George's County judge was taken into custody last night on an unrelated drug charge.

Sheriff's deputies and the U.S. Marshals Service arrested Sean M. Sykes without incident in the District about 11 p.m., officials said. Sheriff's deputies had been unable to locate him to serve a summons in the case earlier in the day, and a judge then issued a warrant.

Sykes is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 24 stabbing of Rene R. Belasco. Prosecutors said Sykes and another suspect threatened to kill a witness who saw them dragging Belasco's body from an apartment complex in Oxon Hill.

Sykes was initially held on $1.5 million bond, but at a March 5 hearing, District Court Judge Hassan A. El-Amin released Sykes to the custody of his mother, a ruling that was unusual given the charges. El-Amin did not restrict Sykes's movements or require that he be monitored, according to an audio recording of the proceeding.

Prosecutors challenged the decision this week, alleging in court papers that Sykes is a member of the Bloods, a violent street gang, and asking that he be jailed without bond or be given a bond "that is appropriate considering the nature and circumstances" of the case.

Belasco, 24, was killed in an apartment building in the 1100 block of Kennebec Street, where Sykes lived with his mother, Wanda Sykes, according to court records.

A hearing on Assistant State's Attorney Joseph C. Ruddy's motion is scheduled for this morning.

In the meantime, prosecutors revived a Jan. 6 charge of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The charge had been put on an "inactive" docket, meaning prosecutors had agreed not to go forward with the case as long as Sykes completed a diversion program and stayed out of trouble, said Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey.

Based on the murder charge, prosecutors yesterday asked Circuit Court Judge C. Philip Nichols Jr. to resurrect the drug charge. Nichols did so, and sheriff's deputies went to Sykes's apartment to serve him with the summons.

Sykes and his mother were not home, according to a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is not resolved. Nichols then issued the warrant.

Sykes's mother did not respond to a phone message last night. She has said her son is innocent.

In an interview this week, El-Amin defended his decision to release Sykes without bond, saying he did not believe Sykes posed a flight risk or a danger to public safety, the two factors judges are required to consider in making such decisions.

El-Amin also denounced as "barely constitutional" the state judicial system's method of determining whether and under what conditions defendants are released before trial. The vast majority of defendants are not represented by an attorney at such appearances, he said. Sykes had no attorney.

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