A Rockville teen charged with attempted murder after a shooting at the Rockville Metro Station May 18 will have his case heard in an adult court, a Montgomery County judge ruled Friday.
Tavares D. Harris, of the 733 block of Falls Grove Drive in Rockville, was 17 years old at the time of the shooting, making him eligible to be tried in county juvenile court, his attorneys Barry Helfand and David Martella said at a hearing in county Circuit Court Friday. Judge Mary Beth McCormick decided to keep Harris in the adult system due to the nature of his alleged crime.
In making her decision, McCormick weighed the severity of Harris' involvement against Harris’ age and his lack of a criminal history, she said. Harris allegedly supplied the handgun to his 16-year-old co-defendant Kevin Nguyen, the shooter.
"He looks young and stupid, to be honest," McCormick said after watching Harris holding the handgun in question and smoking marijuana in a pair of rap music videos he and his friends posted to YouTube in the months before the shooting. "But I'm just not convinced that it would be in the interests of the public's safety to hand this case back to juvenile court."
Harris is charged with two counts each of attempted first- and second-degree murder, as well as conspiracy to commit murder and a handgun charge, according to court documents.
Following the hearing, Helfand and Martella expressed disappointment with McCormick's decision but vowed to continue defending Harris through his trial, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 26.
"We were obviously disappointed, but we respect the judge's ruling," Helfand said following the hearing.
At the hearing, Harris' mother, Donna A. Harris, testified on behalf of her son, telling McCormick about her struggle to provide for her children through abusive relationships with their father and a brief criminal history as she fought to sustain a family. Donna cited her son's good grades and participation in church sports programs, telling the judge he was a good boy.
"He was always at home playing video games with his friends," she said. "I don't condone using drugs ... [and] I have never had any reason to believe my son had ever touched a gun."
Donna also admitted that her long hours operating her hair stylist business in Rockville often meant Tavares was left at home without her supervision. She had never seen the videos of her son holding the handgun and smoking, which she said "disgusted" her. At the same time, she said her son is not involved in a gang as prosecutors and police originally claimed after the shooting.
"He never intended it as a gang, they were always just about the music," she said of her son's group of friends, who called themselves 'Y2C' or 'Youngins 2 Crazy' in their videos. "... I felt like he was trying to be someone he was not. They think they're a rap group; but they aren't a gang."
Nguyen is also a member of the group of friends and collaborated in the videos, which feature scenes of Tavares and others smoking marijuana and holding weapons, including the handgun and a replica assault rifle, overplayed with Tavares rapping.
Police believe the shooting took place after the victim said he was going to rob Nguyen, who attended Richard Montgomery High School with Tavares. Within a day, Tavares, Nguyen and others had decided to confront the victim with a gun, finding their opportunity at the Rockville Metro Station.
Nguyen told police he became angry after the victim reiterated his threat to rob him and he pulled the gun, which Tavares had given to him earlier after it had been stolen from another parent's house. Nguyen opened fire, hitting the victim four times and also shooting a female bystander, said Shelise Smith, a case manager for the county's department of juvenile services who recommended Tavares remain in the adult court system.
"The department felt that these charges were more criminal in nature than they were delinquent," she told McCormick. "It wasn't even a question of someone could get hurt, people did get hurt; someone could have died."
Nguyen, who is also being charged as an adult for the time being in spite of the fact that he is still only 16, admitted to the police that he was the shooter and said he had intended to kill the victim. Nguyen, who is facing the same charges as Tavares, is scheduled to go to trial in December, according to court documents.