Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Teen Gets 13 Years For Fatal Brawl

From WaPo:

By Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 27, 2008; B03

The former 189-pound high school wrestling champ barely filled out his suit yesterday as he stood in a Howard County courtroom, searching for words to explain how a life of Scouting and athletics had brought him to a midnight brawl outside a school, where he fatally struck another teen with an aluminum baseball bat.

Kevin F. Klink, 19, briefly apologized to the friends and family of Robert Brazell Jr., the Ellicott City 18-year-old who died of injuries he suffered during a fight Feb. 24, 2007, involving about two dozen people outside Mount Hebron High School.

"I never intended or hoped for this to happen, and I'm very sorry," Klink said quietly moments before he was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Klink, who graduated in 2006 from Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, pleaded guilty last month to voluntary manslaughter and carrying a dangerous weapon. According to a statement of facts attached to his plea agreement, one person saw Klink "use a full 'homerun' swing as the bat hit the back of Robert Brazell's head." Brazell was unarmed, and Klink was initially charged with first-degree murder.

Defense attorney Sam Truette said Klink, a former Boy Scout, never intended to kill Brazell at the confrontation, which authorities say was an arranged rematch of a fight involving young men mostly connected to Mount Hebron or to Hammond High School in Columbia. According to the statement of facts, Klink said he was defending a friend under attack from Brazell.

Robert Brazell, the victim's father, said after the sentencing that he opposed the plea agreement and thought Klink should stand trial.

"I can't say I accept it," he said. "I'm still going through the year of feeling the way I feel."

The elder Brazell said he also objected to the defense attorney's description of Klink. "They made Kevin Klink to be a Boy Scout and a wrestling champion," he said. "That doesn't mean nothing.

"He took a young man's life," he said. "At the end of the day, his parents are going to see him. We won't see Robby no more."

Circuit Court Judge Lenore R. Gelfman described the killing as "senseless" and "tragic" but called the outcome "a fair plea agreement."

Klink told police that he became involved in the fight when a friend "was being beaten by three males," and the statement said he "honestly, but unreasonably believed that the force that he used was necessary."

At the hearing, Assistant State's Attorney Danielle Duclaux read a statement on behalf the victim's mother, Leslie Brazell, who described her son as a "hero" whose donated organs helped save the lives of five people ranging in age from 7 months to 51 years old.

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