Former college football star Derrick Fenner has pleaded guilty in Prince George's Circuit Court to possessing cocaine and may be called as a prosecution witness in the trial of two men charged in an alleged drug-related slaying in which Fenner had once been implicated.
Fenner, 20, entered the plea before Judge Jacob S. Levin Wednesday, two days after his trial on charges of possessing cocaine and transporting a handgun was postponed.
The charges against the former University of North Carolina running back stemmed from a traffic stop last April in which a county officer found 25 glass vials containing traces of cocaine in Fenner's jacket. The officer also found a .38-caliber revolver and ammunition under the driver's seat of the vehicle.
The handgun charge against Fenner was dropped. Assistant State's Attorney Mary Scherstrom, who prosecuted the case, said it would have been difficult to prove the handgun charge because Fenner was driving someone else's vehicle and no fingerprints were taken from the weapon.
The guilty plea could lead to a clean record for Fenner, who broke Atlantic Coast Conference records as a freshman running back at the University of North Carolina.
Under Maryland sentencing guidelines, a charge of possessing cocaine for a first-time offender such as Fenner usually calls for probation. That could be served with or without supervision and could be handled by a probation office in another state, such as North Carolina, where Fenner has reenrolled as a student. Athletic department officials at the university said that Fenner would not likely be allowed to participate in the upcoming football season.
In some circumstances, a judge can enter a disposition of probation before judgment, which would leave the defendant with a clean record if the conditions of the probation are not violated. Judge Levin scheduled Fenner's sentencing on March 23.
Fenner, a graduate of Oxon Hill High School, has spent 60 days in the county Correctional Center while waiting to make bond on charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder stemming from a shooting rampage last May at the Kirkwood Apartments in Hyattsville.
Fenner and five other men were charged in the shooting, which left Marcellus Leach, 19, dead of a wound in the head and a juvenile wounded after a gun battle that police said erupted over turf for illegal drug distribution.
Fenner was cleared of the murder and attempted murder charge in November, after police developed evidence that suggested Fenner was miles away from the Kirkwood Apartments when the shootings occurred.
Richard Henry Day, 21, and Russell Hughes -- two other men who were charged with first-degree murder in the Kirkwood shootings -- have been subpoenaed as prosecution witnesses in the trials of Tyrone Anthony Davis, 22, and Lorenzo Hazel, 21. Both Day and Hughes are being held at jails outside Prince George's County for their protection, courthouse sources said.
There is no record of a subpoena issued for Fenner in the Kirkwood case. But courthouse sources said prosecutors want him to testify against Davis and Hazel.
Police said that Fenner had provided the names of those who allegedly were involved. Fenner's lawyer, Fred R. Joseph, has said that Fenner has not given information on the shootings to police. Joseph said yesterday that he hopes Fenner will not have to testify at the trial of Davis and Hazel, scheduled to begin Feb. 16.