Freed by One Judge, Suspect Is Ordered Held by Another

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Prince George's County judge ordered a teenage slaying suspect held without bond yesterday, in effect undoing an earlier decision by another judge to release the defendant to the custody of his mother.

On March 5, District Court Judge Hassan A. El-Amin released Sean M. Sykes, 18, without requiring him to post bond, an unusual decision that drew sharp criticism from prosecutors.

Yesterday, in ordering that Sykes be held, District Court Judge Thomas J. Love said prosecutors had presented evidence that was not made available to El-Amin. Love was acting on a request from prosecutors.

In court, Assistant State's Attorney Joseph C. Ruddy alleged that Sykes is a member of a Bloods street gang that terrorizes the Oxon Hill building where the homicide occurred and where Sykes lived with his family.

Sykes is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 24 stabbing death of Rene R. Belasco, 24. According to charging documents, Sykes and another man dragged the mortally wounded Belasco out of the apartment building and threatened a witness who saw them do it.

Sykes has been in custody since March 16, when a judge authorized his arrest on a juvenile warrant for possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Prosecutors and some police officers said they believe Sykes is a danger to public safety and should not have been released. In an interview, El-Amin defended his decision, saying he did not believe Sykes was a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Sykes's defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Michael D. Beach, argued that prosecutors had not presented evidence implicating Sykes in a homicide. Beach also said that allowing prosecutors to "shop" for judges when they do not like a decision regarding the bond status of a suspect sets a dangerous precedent.

Charlene Williams, an aunt of Belasco, took a different view. "I'm very pleased with the judge's decision," she said.

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