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Defendant Who Shot Two People Received Suspended Sentence-You Need to Look at the Whole Picture before Making a Judgment

I found the following newspaper article in the Montgomery Gazette. My client was originally charged with attempted murder after he shot two people. In the end he pled guilty to two counts of reckless endangerment and received a suspended sentence. My client did not get away with anything, it is just that after the state of Maryland and below counsel were able to investigate the matter, a more complete set of facts developed and reason prevailed.

A Montgomery Village man has been sentenced to time served for shooting into a crowd of people outside his house and injuring two, including his cousin.

Richard Anthony Ortiz Jr., 19, and his then 17-year-old cousin were at their home in the 9300 block of Bremerton Way in Montgomery Village on May 19 when four or five men knocked on their door about 6 p.m., according to Montgomery County Police charging documents. His cousin went outside by himself over Ortiz's objections.

Ortiz heard a commotion and opened the door. He saw his cousin surrounded by a small crowd and struggling with a then 23-year-old man, according to the documents. Ortiz grabbed a gun, told the other people in the house to go downstairs and fired into the crowd to scare off the group.

A bullet hit Ortiz's cousin in the back and exited through his stomach. The 23-year-old man was shot in the neck, according to the documents. Neither man suffered life-threatening injuries.

The 23-year-old fled to a house near Arrowhead Road and Rothbury Drive in Montgomery Village and told the residents that someone was chasing him, according to the documents. Police were called.

Ortiz administered first aid to his cousin and walked to Rothbury to meet police.

"I have a [2-year-old] daughter and the day she was born was the day I changed a lot and became more protective of my family," Ortiz, who is now employed and living with relatives in Silver Spring, said at the Oct. 4 hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville. "I know [the 23-year-old] has four of his own and I'm happy that God didn't decide to put that kind of pressure on me of taking someone's life, knowing he has kids."

The .38-caliber revolver was unregistered and illegally purchased, Ortiz's Rockville attorney Thomas G. Witkop said at the hearing. Ortiz does not know who he bought the gun from, Witkop said.

Ortiz purchased the gun for protection after he and his cousin were robbed by three masked men while walking home last winter, Witkop said. The cousin's nostril was slit and a tendon in Ortiz's arm was cut, he said.

Witkop said in an interview that the cousin and the 23-year-old were in a physical fight and that Ortiz feared for his relative's life and made a poor decision.

"This guy's in his home defending himself," Witkop said. "He wasn't looking for any trouble, he was minding his own business. He wasn't an instigator."

Ortiz was indicted in June on two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of using a handgun in commission of a violent crime. He pleaded guilty to two counts of reckless endangerment and was sentenced to two years in prison with all but one day suspended by Judge Joseph A. Dugan Jr.

Ortiz was given credit for one day of time served in a plea agreement accepted by Dugan.

"I don't like people out in the street with handguns that don't have a license for them and I don't like people like you, at age 19, blazing away out in front of your house," Dugan said at the hearing.

"Little girls need love and affection from their fathers and you can't give that if you're in the penitentiary."

Ortiz has been known to associate with members of a local offshoot of the Bloods gang, Assistant State's Attorney Jeffrey Wennar said, and he tested positive for marijuana three times while awaiting trial.

Dugan said Ortiz's cousin was selling drugs.

Ortiz violated his curfew on at least three occasions while awaiting trial, according to court documents, once disappearing for three days. He also failed to report to his probation officer at least once, missed a substance abuse treatment class and failed to appear at a court date.

Ortiz pleaded guilty to marijuana possession in July, according to an online state court records database.

The reporter who wrote this was Ms. Tierney and I appreciate her balanced approach to the article.


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