A Woodbridge man convicted of first-degree murder in the slaying of two men in a dispute over a $200 drug debt and an $800 gold nugget bracelet was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison by a Montgomery County judge.
The prosecutor, Thomas Tamm, objected to the sentence that Circuit Court Judge William M. Cave gave Frank Miranda, 19, saying Maryland law mandates a life sentence for someone convicted of first-degree murder. Tamm said that William H. Williams Jr., the father of one man slain in the Oct. 4 shootings, raised a racial issue in connection with Miranda's sentencing.
Miranda is white, and two other men convicted of the same crimes in the slayings are black.
The others are Kevin Hernandez, 27, and Anthony Wells Jr., 28, who police said did the actual killing.
Prosecutors are seeking sentences of life without parole for Hernandez and Wells, who are to be sentenced next month. Tamm said Williams was upset that the prosecution was not seeking the same sentence of life without parole for Miranda.
Both Tamm and the judge strongly denied a racial motive.
"I don't think I could live with myself if I believed that," Tamm said. He said Miranda's culpability in the slayings was different from that of his co-defendants.
"He was not the man who pulled the triggers and shot these young men in the back and the back of the head," he said.
Cave called the racial allegation disturbing and said: "Would it have been different if a black man recruited two white men to kill another white man?
"That has no place any longer in this society. I base none of my decision in any case because of the color of the person's skin, whether that be the defendant, the victim or the witnesses."
Police said Miranda recruited Hernandez and Wells to accompany him to the Silver Spring apartment of William H. Williams III, 22, and Earl Jerome, 18, to retrieve the bracelet.
Judge Cave said Miranda wanted the others along to provide "muscle," but that Miranda had not planned the slayings.
"This is not a case where he went out to hire two guns to go and assassinate these two men," Cave said.
Cave agreed to consider Tamm's argument that he was required by law to sentence Miranda to life in prison.
Tamm said that if the judge imposes a life sentence, Miranda would have to spend more time in prison.
The sentence imposed yesterday -- 25 years with all but 10 suspended -- would make Miranda eligible for parole after four years, a state probation officer said.
If Cave changed the sentence to life, with all but 10 years suspended, Miranda would not become eligible for parole until he had served all 10 years, Tamm said.
All three men were convicted on July 2 of two counts of first-degree murder, one of robbery and two of using a handgun in a crime of violence.
Miranda made a tearful statement in court yesterday, apologizing to the families of the dead men and declaring: "I had no intention for anyone to be hurt or killed that day."