The girlfriend of a defendant in a Baltimore attempted-murder case knocked on the door of a teenage witness and, police said, delivered this message to his father: The boy is going to “get it” for “snitching on my family,” reports the Baltimore Sun. A day later, the brother of a co-defendant reportedly stopped the witness’ father in a neighborhood store and said that if the boy “thinks he’s going to show up in court, he’ll be dead before that.” The two who threatened have become the first in Baltimore charged under a revised law that went into effect this month. Witness intimidation is now a felony that carries a possible 20-year prison sentence — a much more serious crime than it was before Oct. 1, when it was a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of five years. The new law also means that the attempts at intimidation might help prosecutors use the teenage witness’ statements in the attempted-murder case even if he doesn’t show up to testify.
Prosecutors said the case will be a test of how the most-disputed part of the law, the “hearsay exception,” will play out in court and whether judges will be willing to impose lengthy prison sentences for a crime that used to be a misdemeanor. Police say the two exchanges took place last week in the North Baltimore neighborhood of Remington. One defendant was ordered held without bail yesterday by District Judge Timothy J. Doory, who said that witness intimidation “strikes at the heart of the criminal justice system.”