- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2004

BALTIMORE — Describing the beating of a 12-year-old girl at a birthday party as a “mindless rampage,” a judge yesterday refused to transfer one of the accused attackers from jail to home detention.

“In my 19 years, this is the worst, this is the worst assault I’ve ever seen,” Circuit Judge Joseph McCurdy said during the bail review hearing for Temprest Baldwin, 15. “This is just unbelievable, shocking.”

Nicole Townes was beaten, stomped and kicked by as many as six women and girls, after a boy, acting on a dare, kissed her during a birthday party and sleepover in February. Prosecutors said the mother of the girl celebrating her birthday apparently was offended because the boy was supposed to be her daughter’s boyfriend. Before the attack, the mother urged her daughter to “handle your business,” police said.

Nicole was in a coma for nearly a month after the attack. Prosecutors say she suffered permanent brain damage and remains in a long-term pediatric hospital.

Miss Baldwin, a guest at the party, was 14 at the time of the attack. During yesterday’s hearing, she sat crying silently between two older female inmates — in court for hearings in their cases — who offered words of comfort.

The judge continued Miss Baldwin’s no-bail status despite a request by her attorney, Brian Mobley, that she be allowed to live with her grandmother under 24-hour electronic monitoring.

Mr. Mobley said Miss Baldwin had been seeing a psychiatrist for more than a year to help her deal with her mother’s history of drug abuse, and he noted that the ninth-grader never had been arrested before the attack.

Prosecutor Julie Drake said Miss Baldwin was one of the main participants in the sustained beating of Nicole and might have delivered some of the most serious blows.

“She wasn’t pushed into her actions. She willingly began the physical assault — she threw the first punch — and she may well have caused the most serious injuries when she slammed Nicole’s head repeatedly on the floor,” Miss Drake said.

Miss Drake also argued that Miss Baldwin could be a danger to young witnesses if released. Nicole was attacked by the female members of a large extended family in defense of the family’s honor, Miss Drake said.

“Imagine what they might do if someone disrespects the family by testifying against it,” Miss Drake said.

The birthday girl and her 36-year-old mother also are among those charged. Two teenage girls have pleaded guilty to participating in the assault and are awaiting sentencing May 26.

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