TOWSON, Md. (AP) — A high school sophomore pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder Tuesday in the shooting of an intellectually disabled classmate last year in suburban Baltimore.
Robert Gladden Jr., 15, entered the plea to the adult charge on the day his trial was scheduled to begin in Baltimore County Circuit Court. Judge Robert Cahill Jr. accepted the plea and agreed to a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Sentencing was scheduled for Monday.
Gladden also pleaded guilty to using a firearm in a crime of violence. Both counts involved 17-year-old Daniel Borowy, who was hit in the back with a shotgun blast Aug. 27, the first day of classes at Perry Hall High School. Borowy, who has Down syndrome, missed more than two months of school while recuperating from his injuries.
Gladden had been charged as an adult with 29 offenses, including nine counts of attempted first-degree murder. The other alleged victims included the students sitting at a lunch table with Borowy and the school employees who wrestled the shotgun away from the teen, authorities said.
Gladden gave mostly one-word answers to questions from the judge about his willingness to plead guilty, keeping his head slightly bowed with his long, reddish-brown hair slightly obscuring his face. His mother and a few other supporters sobbed and wiped their eyes as the teen entered his plea.
Borowy's family was not in the courtroom. Milton Borowy, Daniel's father, said in a telephone interview Monday that he was pleased a plea deal had been reached.
"At least the admission of guilt is finally there," he said, later adding: "It's good to know that he is going to pay for his crime."
Milton Borowy said his son is close to 100 percent healed, but he still has nightmares once or twice a week.
Gladden's attorney, George Psoras Jr., has said the boy brought the gun to school to intimidate bullies and did not intend to shoot anyone. The judge rejected Psoras' motion earlier this month to move the case to juvenile court, where the teen would have faced less harsh punishment.
Psoras told The Associated Press in a telephone interview after Tuesday's hearing that Gladden took the plea deal to give the Borowy family closure "and he wanted the public to begin healing from his actions."
Psoras said his client, like others his age, doesn't think rationally.
"He thought like a 15-year-old, a very immature 15-year-old," Psoras said.
Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney John Cox told reporters that Gladden acted brazenly.
"It's clear from all the evidence he thought about this a long time, and that he made the decision he was going to cause misery on others before taking his own life," Cox said.
Assistant State's Attorney Danielle Williams said during the hearing that Gladden asked a police officer after the shooting, "Can I get the death penalty? Because I wanted to kill him."
Gladden had expressed suicidal thoughts. At 6:27 a.m. on the day of the shooting, he wrote on his Facebook page, "First day of school, last day of my life." The Facebook page also included references to murder-suicide and to mass murderer Charles Manson.
Judge Cahill agreed to sentence Gladden to no more than life in prison, with all but 40 years of active incarceration suspended. The defense is free to argue for a lesser sentence.
Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko in Washington contributed to this report.