GARNER

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tant state’s at­tor­ney who pros­e­cutes drug-re­lated cases, asked the judge to given Garner the max­i­mum sen­tence of three years.

Ge­orge Lee Rome Jr., 28, died of an over­dose in Septem­ber 2016. His body was found in the early morn­ing hours on Sept. 28, 2016, in the Calvert Ma­rina area in Solomons af­ter Garner called the po­lice. In­ves­ti­ga­tion later showed that Rome died at a woman’s home and was moved to the ma­rina area.

“He left him there for a day as if he was trash,” Ridge said. “Show­ing that level of dis­re­spect to a fel­low hu­man be­ing … he de­serves ev­ery bit of the three years.”

Garner’s lawyer Michael Beach from the pub­lic de­fender’s of­fice said Rome died in Jac­que­lyn Wal­lace’s home where Garner was stay­ing.

It was the sec­ond over­dose at her home, and she feared los­ing her child, Beach said in court Fri­day, not­ing his client did not master­mind the move.

Af­ter the body was moved to the ma­rina area, Beach said Garner stayed with Rome’s body the whole night, cried, broke down and even­tu­ally called the po­lice.

Beach went on to say his client has en­gaged in re­cov­ery pro­grams and has done well at the St. Mary’s De­ten­tion Cen­ter where he is serv­ing a sen­tence for other cases. He sub­mit­ted a let­ter from a health pro­fes­sional who worked with Garner and wrote that he ex­hib­ited “a gen­uine de­sire to change.”

Beach also read a let­ter from Garner’s sis­ter, Stephanie Townsend, who said she and her hus­band are will­ing to open their home to Garner and promised to pro­vide a sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment for him.

Read­ing the let­ter Townsend sub­mit­ted for the cases in St. Mary’s, Beach said his sis­ter dis­closed that Garner’s mother aban­doned them when they were teenagers.

“I don’t think Mark ever re­cov­ered from that,” Beach quoted Townsend’s let­ter while she sat in the gallery of the court­room along with two other fam­ily mem­bers.

Beach said his client’s “low-level deal­ing” was to sup­port his own drug habit, and it was a recipe for dis­as­ter when his ad­dic­tion was com­pounded with the trauma from his mother’s aban­don­ment, ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion to ad­dic­tion, a car ac­ci­dent that left him se­verely in­jured and men­tal health is­sues.

When read­ing a state­ment he wrote, Garner choked up when talk­ing about Rome, his child­hood friend.

“He sup­ported me when I was weak,” he said, not­ing Rome al­ways held a spe­cial place in his heart and Rome was there to em­brace him and lis­ten to him when he learned his mother had aban­doned him.

Garner spent a few min­utes talk­ing about the im­pact of drug ad­dic­tion and the on­go­ing opi­oid cri­sis pen­e­trat­ing com­mu­ni­ties na­tion­wide, cit­ing ac­tions from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and U.S. Sur­geon Gen­eral Jerome Adams, who grew up in St. Mary’s, to in­crease aware­ness and com­bat the epi­demic. He ac­knowl­edged he needed help and said he has done what he could to im­prove him­self.

“I try to find re­demp- tion in ev­ery per­son that comes be­fore me,” Calvert Cir­cuit Judge Mar­jorie Clagett said af­ter hear­ing the prose­cu­tion and the de­fense. “I sat through the mo­tions for all the hear­ings. I was touched.”

Clagett said she un­der­stands the prose­cu­tion’s po­si­tion that the body should not have been moved in the first place. Af­ter read­ing the vic­tim im­pact state­ment from Rome’s fa­ther, Ge­orge Rome Sr., she said she also un­der­stood the heart­felt sen­ti­ment that no par­ent should bury a child, the sad­ness of not be­ing there when he died and the thought of him be­ing left in the cold area by the ma­rina.

But given the cir­cum­stance of how the death hap­pened at Wal­lace’s house and be­cause of Garner’s ac­tion fol­low­ing Rome’s death, Clagett gave him a sen­tence of a year and a day, in­stead of the max­i­mum sen­tence of three years.

“It was clear that Mr. Rome was a child­hood friend. He over­dosed. He died,” Clagett said. “And all of that is so tragic.”

In a sep­a­rate case where Garner took an Al­ford plea to con­spir­ing with oth­ers to dis­trib­ute drugs, Clagett gave him a sus­pended sen­tence of five years Fri­day. In a third drug-re­lated case, Clagett gave Garner a five-year con­cur­rent sen­tence in July for a drug-distri­bu­tion con­spir­acy con­vic­tion.

In Fe­bru­ary 2017, Wal­lace, the woman whose home Rome died in, took an Al­ford plea to bury­ing or dis­pos­ing of a de­ceased body in an unau­tho­rized place. Calvert Cir­cuit Judge Mark Chan­dlee gave her the max­i­mum sen­tence of eight years with all but 18 months sus­pended in Septem­ber 2017. He au­tho­rized Wal­lace work re­lease and gave her five years of su­per­vised pro­ba­tion.

Garner has been in­car­cer­ated since Septem­ber 2016. He has filed an ap­peal for his two St. Mary’s cases.

Ear­lier in March, Garner was ac­quit­ted of a charge of sec­ond-de­gree “de­praved heart” mur­der in the Au­gust 2016 death of Bar­bara Ann Sne­den, a 31-year-old Chop­ti­con High School grad­u­ate who had en­tered a treat­ment pro­gram to ad­dress her ad­dic­tion to heroin.

St. Mary’s Cir­cuit Judge Karen H. Abrams dis­missed a con­vic­tion for in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter in that case but gave Garner a 10-year sus­pended sen­tence for a drug-distri­bu­tion con­spir­acy con­vic­tion and a con­cur­rent five-year sen­tence for a reck­less en­dan­ger­ment con­vic­tion.

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