Six white men, ages 18 to 21, were charged with manslaughter yesterday in connection with the death of a black teenager in July during a brawl outside a party in Anne Arundel County, prosecutors said last night. All six were taken into custody yesterday evening.
A grand jury returned indictments naming four men who were initially charged with murder in the death of Jamahl Jones, 17. To the dismay of some civil rights leaders, prosecutors withdrew the murder charges, saying the case required further investigation.
In a statement last night, State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said: "It is essential that as prosecutors we make certain we have the necessary information we need to move ahead in cases such as this. The last few weeks have allowed us to garner that information and bring it before the grand jury."
Anne Arundel civil rights leader Carl O. Snowden asked why the indictments charge manslaughter and assault rather than murder but acknowledged that the facts in the death are not yet known. He added, "The state's attorney's office should be applauded."
Indicted yesterday were the original four defendants: Joshua D. Bradley and David M. George, both 20, and Jacob T. Fortney and Richard E. McLeod, both 18. Gregory M. Florentino, 21, and Scott E. Burton Jr., 19, also were indicted. In addition to manslaughter, each is charged with first-degree assault, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment.
Attorneys for Fortney and George said their clients were not involved in Jones's death.
"I think we're a little disappointed that the grand jury did anything with this matter," said David P. Putzi, Fortney's attorney, speaking of himself and his client. He noted that the defendants are not charged with hate crimes, saying, "It's clear the grand jury decided there was not [a hate crime], and that's consistent with what we've been saying the entire time."
George's attorney, Peter S. O'Neill, said the decision not to charge the men with murder "certainly reflects the fact that this was a fight and not something that was premeditated by anyone who might have been involved."
Attorneys for the other defendants could not be reached for comment last night.
Jones died of injuries suffered during a fight outside a party in Pasadena on July 24. Two of his friends, both of whom were black, were injured.
Jones's family has said that the three had received a call from another friend who said he had been threatened at the party by a group of about a dozen former Northeast High School students. Jones and his friends arrived, and a fight ensued.
Which side started the fight remains in dispute. Jones's friends have said they believe he was targeted because he had been dating a white girl.
Detectives charged the four men, but Weathersbee withdrew the charges less than a month later, saying the findings of a preliminary autopsy report were inconsistent with the initial police assessment. In September, the Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation into Jones's death.