It must have been a pretty good day for Baltimore law enforcement back in the beginning of March, 2016. They had been on the hunt for Carl Cooper, a criminal with multiple violent weapons crime convictions who had opened fire in a public area two weeks earlier, seriously wounding two siblings in their 80s and 90s. He was quickly branded as “Public Enemy Number 1” and the chase was on. Cooper had fled the area, but Federal Marshals, working with the Baltimore Police, had tracked him down in South Carolina and taken him into custody.
So, a job well done, right? Then comes the fairly routine steps of going to trial, getting a conviction, locking this guy up and throwing away the key. Well, the City of Baltimore managed to get all but one of those steps right. There was some dismay apparent when the judge gave Cooper a considerably lighter sentence than prosecutors had expected. But it turns out that he was only doing what they’d asked of him. (Baltimore Sun)
Baltimore prosecutors got what they asked for when a judge sentenced a one-time “Public Enemy No. 1” to life with all but 50 years suspended for opening fire in a West Baltimore shopping center and wounding two elderly siblings.
Except the State’s Attorney’s Office said afterward that it meant to ask for the maximum sentence of life plus 50 years, having argued that Carl Cooper had twice previously been convicted of similar crimes and had not learned a lesson.
After Chief Judge Alfred Nance imposed the sentence, Assistant State’s Attorney Otis Freeman said he had misspoke.
“I can’t go back and change what you argued,” Nance told Freeman. “The sentence was given as requested.”
So State’s Attorney for Baltimore Marilyn Mosby’s crack team is on the job again. Sounds like the judge was in the mood to hand down whatever sentence they wanted, but the prosecutor “misspoke” and then wanted a do-over. Clearly the judge wasn’t going to give them that option.
Life plus fifty years should have put Cooper away pretty much for good even if he somehow managed to get a shot at parole at the earliest possible time. True, he may still wind up dying in prison since his attorney insists he has medical problems and won’t last more than 25 years. But how soon can you get out on parole with several attempted murder charges on your sheet? If they are following the federal guidelines, that fifty year sentence could see Cooper reach his Parole Eligibility Date in just ten years. (Which doesn’t mean he’ll get out of course, but it’s possible.)
And make no mistake… we’re talking about a bad guy here. He had his first serious conviction in 1995, being sent up for attempted murder and a handgun conviction. Given that Cooper is 38 years old today, you won’t need to be a math major to realize that he was already in that “line of work” by the age of 16. After being released, he was right back in court with another attempted murder conviction. He somehow made it back out onto the streets yet again and last year’s spate of shootings was the result. You’d think that Baltimore’s prosecutors could have managed to put this guy away for good by this point… and they nearly did. But it was a literal case of being careful what you wish for because that’s precisely what they got.