ANNAPOLIS – The Court of Special Appeals Wednesday vacated two of the several criminal sentences imposed on a man convicted of shooting at Prince George’s County police while they tried to arrest him for murder in May 1994.
The court affirmed the convictions of Franklin Hodge, 23, for shooting with the intent to disable and for use of a handgun in committing a crime of violence. But it set aside his sentences for assault with intent to prevent lawful apprehension and for reckless endangerment, which ran concurrently with the other sentences.
In the opinion, Judges Theodore Bloom, Joseph F. Murphy Jr. and Ellen Hollander noted that “we simply cannot tell from the verdict whether the convictions were for the same assault or for separate assaults.”
In such ambiguous cases, the judges wrote, “we must resolve all doubts in favor of the defendant.”
Rachel Marblestone Kamins, an assistant attorney general involved in the case, explained: “A lot of times, when you fire a gun, it can constitute two different crimes. The law doesn’t allow you to have two separate sentences.”
Hodge is still serving two consecutive sentences totaling 35 years at the House of Correction in Jessup.
The elimination of the simultaneous sentences for his crimes may improve Hodge’s chances for parole, said John Kopolow, Hodge’s public-appointed appeal counsel. The parole board takes concurrent sentences into consideration when examining an inmate’s case.
Hodge was facing a first-degree murder charge in the Virgin Islands at the time of his arrest in College Park. To date, nothing has come of that charge, Kopolow said.
In the appeal, Hodge and his attorney complained that the judge had made a mistake in allowing prosecutors to prove that the officers intended to arrest Hodge for murder, saying that had predjudiced the jury.
But the judges said the murder warrant was relevant, given that the officers approached the Erie Street house where Hodge was staying with their weapons drawn, an appropriate precaution when apprehending a murder suspect.
Hodge claimed he was acting in self-defense when he shot at several police officers. When police announced their presence, the door opened and Hodge held one officer at gunpoint, then fled upstairs and fired at police from a window.
Police shot Hodge in the leg while he was attempting to escape from a second-story window.
Hodge claimed that he did not know the officer he held at bay was with the police, saying the officer was undercover in plain clothes, wore a pony tail and did nothing to identify himself as a member of the police. Hodge also said he had received a death threat only a few days earlier. -30-