ANNAPOLIS-The lawyer for a Columbia man asked Maryland’s highest court Thursday to throw out the conviction of his client on the obscure charge of common law rioting in connection with the death of a University of Maryland student three years ago.
Stacy McCormack, the attorney for John Ryan Schlamp, argued the state was using the charge of common law riot “in ways it was never intended,” and it resulted in her client being the first person in Maryland to be sent to jail on that charge in 35 years.
During the hearing, McCormack defined common law riot as “three or more people assembled to carry out a common purpose in such a violent and turbulent manner as to inspire terror in other people.”
Her client, Schlamp, 28, was convicted of common law riot on June 27, 2003, for his involvement in a fight that broke out at a party near the University of Maryland’s College Park campus after a football game on Nov. 10, 2002. The fight ended in the death of Brandon Malstrom, a 20-year-old student.
Schlamp was acquitted of murder charges and first-degree assault, but along with his common law riot conviction he received a conviction for second-degree assault. He was sentenced to 10 years for the riot conviction and three for assault.
Quan Lewayne Davis of Hanover, who was with Schlamp at the party, was also convicted of common law riot and of carrying a weapon openly with intent to do harm. He was acquitted of murder charges as well as first and second-degree assault.
McCormack argued there is no evidence that Schlamp and the other men involved in the fight had any other purpose than to celebrate the University of Maryland’s homecoming victory. She said their actions at the party were described by one witness as “typical college stuff.”
But Michelle W. Cole, assistant attorney general, argued the men came to the party with a specific purpose of “causing trouble and to disrupt the celebration.”
“This is not a case of boys who had a few drinks too many,” she said “They gathered together to cause trouble. …They went to a party in College Park with a weapon and repeatedly instigated fights. I think you can infer a common purpose.”
The panel of seven judges asked few questions, but Chief Judge Robert M. Bell expressed his concerns by questioning Cole over the time and place of the riot after Cole argued it began as soon as Schlamp and his friends arrived at the party.
“My picture of a riot doesn’t include a house party,” Bell said.
Cole said, “He’s looking at the house party as being the backdrop. The state is asking they look at the actions first. It doesn’t matter is the house party or a prison, we are looking at the actions.”
Cole maintained that Schlamp came to the party with the intention of causing trouble and was seen picking fights with other party-goers the entire time he was there.
Cole also said Schlamp and his friends were asked several times to leave but never did. “I’ll admit my client is guilty of obnoxious behavior but that’s not common law rioting,” McCormack said.