BY KEITH EPPS
A Spotsylvania County man responsible for a drive-by shooting that injured an 11-year-old boy last year will serve five years in prison.
Thomas Jerel Baldwin, 23, agreed to a plea agreement Wednesday in which he was convicted of malicious wounding and sentenced to 15 years in prison, with 10 years suspended.
In return, prosecutors Brian Boyle and Matt Lowery dropped eight other charges, including two counts of attempted murder and multiple firearms charges.
Baldwin’s jury trial in Spotsylvania Circuit Court was nearing the end of its first day Wednesday when the prosecutors and defense attorney Benjamin Burchette reached a deal during what was supposed to be a 10-minute break.
When the jurors returned to the courtroom well over 45 minutes later, Judge David Beck thanked them and sent them home.
Toriano Johnson Jr., 11, was sleeping in his room at 220 Burlington Drive in Spotsylvania about 3:12 a.m. on Sept. 18 when shots were fired from a passing SUV.
The boy was struck in the back and was rushed to Mary Washington Hospital by his father, Toriano “Man” Johnson Sr. and his adult cousin, Duane Lawson. The child has fully recovered.
According to testimony, Lawson and Baldwin had been at odds for a number of months and had exchanged words earlier that evening outside the IHOP in Central Park.
Lawson Wednesday had difficulty recalling exactly what was said that night, but said he didn’t take the comments from Baldwin’s group “as a threat, more like B.S.”
Toriano Johnson Sr. said that he and Lawson had returned to the residence about 45 minutes before the shooting.
According to testimony, they had been drinking and smoking marijuana when Lawson noticed several vehicles in and around Johnson’s driveway.
They were in the doorway when shots rang out and both men fell to the floor. They then rushed Johnson’s son to the hospital after realizing he’d been hit.
The only witness to tie Baldwin to the shooting during Wednesday’s abbreviated trial was Deonte Jones, the driver of the vehicle Baldwin was riding in.
Jones said he, Baldwin and someone named “Tootie” had ridden from IHOP in search of a party.
He said that once they reached Johnson’s subdivision, he saw Baldwin leaning out the window and heard shots being fired. But he said he never saw a gun.
Jones, who claimed he didn’t know Baldwin prior to that night, said he then drove Baldwin and “Tootie” to Hazel Hill in Fredericksburg and never mentioned the shooting.
Burchette spent much of Wednesday attacking the credibility of the prosecution witnesses.
After Jones repeatedly denied knowing Baldwin, Burchette showed him a picture of the two men together at a beach a few months before the shooting.
Jones admitted he’d lied about not knowing Baldwin. When asked if the jury could believe anything he said, Jones replied, “probably not.”
Burchette also suggested that Johnson did more than just smoke marijuana. Several bags of marijuana were found in his home after the shooting, along with digital scales.
Johnson, a felon who admitted to selling drugs in the past, denied that he was still doing so.
Asked why there were so many bags in his house, Johnson said, “I like to smoke different kinds.”
He said the digital scales were used by his wife while baking. The scales, however, were not in the kitchen.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404