ELKTON — A lesser player in the random, near-fatal stabbing of a stranger on the street of a neighborhood near North East last summer received a suspended five-year sentence on Monday.

Prosecutors reported that the defendant, Jordan K. Fields, 19, of Elkton, remained inside a stolen car on Aug 23, 2019 when one of his co-defendants, Marquis Benson, then 17, got of out of vehicle and, unprovoked, stabbed a 24-year-old North East resident after spotting him walking in the area of Champlain Road and Champlain Court in the Lakeside Mobile Home Park.

Fields maintains that he was unaware that Benson and his other co-defendants had planned to attack the first person they saw while joyriding in a Ford Escape, which had been stolen by the youngest in their group, Joshua Ryan Warren, an Elkton-area resident who was 15 at the time of the incident.

Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Williams W. Davis Jr. imposed the suspended five-year sentence on Fields for conspiracy to commit second-degree assault.

Fields had entered an Alford plea to that misdemeanor charge in January as part of a plea deal. In an Alford plea, the defendant maintains his innocence while acknowledging that the state possesses enough evidence to convict him or her at trial.

As part of the sentence, Davis ordered Fields to serve three years of supervised probation.

Fields’ role

Earlier this month, Davis handed Benson – the stabber — a 12-year-prison term after he had entered an Alford plea to first-degree assault. Specifically, the judge imposed a 20-year sentence on Benson, who was living in Townsend, Del., at the time of the stabbing, and then suspended eight years of it.

The judge also ordered Benson, 18, to serve five years of supervised probation and to pay $22,100 in restitution to cover the victim’s medial expenses.

In March, Warren, who had turned 16 one month earlier, received a one-year jail term after pleading guilty to unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and conspiracy to commit second-degree assault, as part of a binding plea agreement. (Warren also received a concurrent one-year sentence for fleeing and eluding uniformed law enforcement officers.)

As for Fields, during his sentencing on Monday, Assistant State’s Attorney Nathaniel Bowen sought six months of active incarceration. Bowen recommended a three-year sentence, with all but six months suspended, followed by five years of supervised probation.

“(Fields) is far less culpable than Mr. Benson and Mr. Warren, but it doesn’t alleviate any responsibility,” Bowen explained to the judge.

Bowen acknowledged that Fields remained in the car, as did all of the other defendants but Benson — who got from out his front-passenger’s seat, approached the victim and stabbed him in the back as he tried to flee from the unknown attacker.

Even so, the prosecutor asserted that Fields was part of the “collective decision” to randomly attack the first person they saw while joyriding in a stolen vehicle and acting “stupid and being macho.”

Bowen also suggested that Fields and the other co-defendants “egged it on.”

Through statements he made to the judge, Bowen informed Fields that the victim almost died from his deep stab wound to the back and that, had he succumbed to it, Fields and his co-defendants would have been facing murder charges instead.

The victim was taken to Christiana Hospital in Delaware, after he called family members for help after the attack, prosecutors said, noting that the suspects had sped away in the stolen vehicle, leaving the victim wounded on the ground, after the stabbing.

Having suffered a punctured lung and diaphragm caused by the stab wound, the victim underwent emergency surgery at that hospital, prosecutors reported.

“You have no idea how lucky you are. He (the victim) died on the operating table and he was brought back to life through some medical heroics,” Bowen emphasized, before telling the judge, “I’m not asking you to hang him, but I am asking for six months of active incarceration.”

Mitigating circumstances

The judge, however, elected not to give Fields additional active incarceration.

Davis imposed the suspended five-year sentence on Fields, two years more than requested by Bowen, and ordered the defendant to serve three years of supervised probation, two years less than recommended by Bowen.

“I flip-flopped them,” Davis noted from the bench, referring to the two recommendations made by Bowen.

Davis imposed the sentence after Fields’ defense lawyer, John W. Gilley, reported that his client had had “no infractions” while free on bond after his arrest and that he had secured a job at Amazon, which Fields can start once this criminal case against him is closed.

“We are against incarceration,” Gilley told the judge. “He’s got a job lined up. He is on his way to leading a proper life.”

In determining the sentence, Davis considered Fields’ lesser role in the incident and his relatively clean criminal record, commenting, “There is a lack of touches with the (legal) system.”

The judge explained that three years of supervised probation would be enough time to determine if Fields is the person he maintains to be – the one who was unaware of the plan to randomly attack the first individual spotted by the group – or if he is the person who was in cahoots with his co-defendants.

“You’re one of two people,” Davis told Fields from the bench, after qualifying, “We know you’re not the stabber.”

The investigation

Maryland State Police troopers arrested Fields and his three companions at approximately 11:15 p.m. on Aug. 23, shortly after chasing the Ford Escape in response to a stolen vehicle complaint, court records show.

The foursome ran away after the Ford Escape driven by Warren crashed on Route 7 near North East during that pursuit, and troopers captured them in that area a short time later, according to court records.

Troopers then learned that doctors at Christiana Hospital were treating a man who had been stabbed near North East in an incident involving a stolen white Ford Escape, which prompted an MSP investigator to interview the victim at that medical center, police reported.

Meanwhile, MSP investigators interviewed Benson and his brother separately at the North East Barrack. (Benson’s brother, who, according to court records, turned 18 one week after the incident, reportedly was charged as a juvenile. Benson turned 18 in February, six months after the incident, court records show.)

“(He) implicated his brother (Benson) as the passenger who stabbed the man . . . He also stated the four (occupants of the stolen Ford Escape) knew they were going to Lakeside to look for someone to fight,” according to court records, which indicate that Benson’s brother also told investigators that all of the occupants were aware there was a knife in that vehicle.

During his interview, however, Benson admitted only to a lesser involvement in the random attack — punching the man.

“Benson advised he likes to fight people and he knew that everyone in the vehicle agreed to ‘jump’ the first person they saw while driving through the Lakeside trailer park. Benson stated he was implicated in the assault by punching (the man) in the face as hard as he could,” according to charging documents made public shortly after the incident.

Benson also told investigators that Warren made all of his passengers aware that the Ford Escape had been stolen, court records show. Police reported that the Ford Escape, which was valued at $20,762, had been stolen from an Elkton resident, who later identified the vehicle as his.

Fields occupied a rear seat, beside Benson’s older brother, in the stolen Ford Escape on the day of the incident, police reported.

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