A Rockville teen was found guilty of first-degree assault and the use of a handgun in a violent crime Tuesday, but the jury remained undecided on his three remaining charges, including attempted first-degree murder.
The partial verdict was handed down at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday on the third day of deliberations following closing arguments Friday. The jury spent almost 15 hours in deliberation from Friday until Tuesday, but was ultimately unable to agree on a verdict for 18-year-old Tavares D. Harris’ attempted first- and second-degree murder charges and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Assistant State’s Attorney Marybeth Ayres, who prosecuted the case with Patrick Mays, expressed her pleasure with the partial conviction but could not comment on whether the state would follow up on the remaining charges against Harris in a second trial.
“That is something that we will have to discuss,” she said on her way out of the courtroom Tuesday. “I am happy with the verdict.”
Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the Montgomery County state’s attorney’s office, also expressed his office’s pleasure with the partial verdict.
“This verdict sends a strong message that handgun violence and glorification of the gangster lifestyle will not be tolerated in our community,” Korionoff said. “If you provide a gun for someone to shoot a perceived rival or anyone for that matter you will be caught, arrested and prosecuted.”
David Martella, one of Harris’ defense attorneys, said he was disappointed in the convictions but glad that, at least for the moment, his client has avoided facing the possible life sentence that would come with a conviction for attempted first-degree murder.
“The use of a handgun count means that he has to serve a mandatory five years in prison without the possibility of parole, but I hope this verdict also means that he can be reunited with his family in a reasonable time,” he said. “The state may decide to retry those remaining counts, but the defendant has been convicted of serious offenses and I hope that the state can be satisfied with this verdict today.”
Harris’ mother, Donna A. Harris, was present when the verdict was announced, surrounded by friends and family, but left the courtroom shortly after hearing the verdict.
Harris was accused of providing a gun and helping to plan a shooting that took place at the Rockville Metro Station May 18. The shooter, 17-year-old Kevin Nguyen, shot the intended victim, a classmate Nguyen had exchanged words with, four times and also injured a female bystander in the shooting.
Martella and fellow defense attorney Barry Helfand argued during the trial that Harris was uninvolved in the dispute that eventually led to the shooting. The defense also cast doubt on the claims made by several of the state’s witnesses who testified that they believed Harris provided Nguyen the gun and helped plan the shooting.
Ayres and Mays pointed to several videos posted on YouTube in the months leading up to the shooting in which Harris and others can be seen posing with the handgun used in the shooting. The prosecution also presented a series of Twitter messages between Harris and another teen on May 17 in which the two discuss a shooting.
While several of the state’s witnesses said they saw Harris near Nguyen at the time of the shooting, none of them were able to definitively place the gun in Harris’ hands immediately before Nguyen began shooting and DNA recovered from the handgun was inconclusive.
Harris’ sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 12.