Accepting a plea bargain that her attorney described as unprecedented in American jurisprudence, a 22-year-old Maryland woman yesterday agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of other defendants in the death of her son under the condition that charges against her be dropped if the child rises from the dead.A Baltimore mother accused of being part of a cult pleaded guilty Monday to starving her baby to death – WBAL
“It also is specifically noted,” Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Timothy Doory said in court as he described the plea bargain to the boy’s mother, “that if the victim in this case, Javon Thompson, is resurrected, as you still hold some hope he will be, you may withdraw the plea, and the charges will be nolle prossed [withdrawn] against you.”
The boy’s mother, Ria Ramkissoon, is shaping up as prosecutors’ star witness against a 40-year-old Baltimore woman named Queen Antoinette. Prosecutors allege that Queen Antoinette led a small cult, called One Mind Ministries, based in a West Baltimore rowhouse. In early 2007, prosecutors say, Queen Antoinette instructed Ramkissoon and others to deprive Javon of food and water because he didn’t say “amen” before breakfast.
Queen Antoinette has been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death, as have three of her alleged followers. Any trial is expected to be at least two months away.
In yesterday’s hearing, prosecutors said they would drop murder charges against Ramkissoon. She pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death. If she testifies truthfully against the other defendants, according to yesterday’s agreement, prosecutors will recommend that she be released from jail, placed on probation, and provided treatment that could include “a process of deprogramming.”
A spokeswoman for the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office said that in recent weeks, as prosecutors and Ramkissoon’s attorney discussed the plea bargain, prosecutors made it clear that Ramkissoon could not get out of her obligations if she asserted that Javon came back as anything other than himself.
“This would need to be a Jesus-like resurrection,” Margaret Burns, the spokeswoman, said after the hearing. “It cannot be a reincarnation in another object or animal.”
Also during yesterday’s hearing, Queen Antoinette and another defendant, Trevia Williams, indicated that they had attorneys but didn’t say who they are. Queen Antoinette said little during the hearing. She talked quietly with courtroom security officials during breaks.
Note: media reports have referred to the group involved both as “1 Mind Ministries” and “One Mind Ministries.”
Ramkissoon’s attorney, Steven D. Silverman, said Ramkissoon believes the resurrection will occur. She agreed to plead guilty only after prosecutors said they would drop the charges if the child comes back to life, Silverman said.
“This is something that she absolutely insisted upon, and this is indicative of the fact that she is still brainwashed, still a victim of this cult,” he said. “Until she’s deprogrammed, she’s not going to think any differently.”
As part of her probation, Ramkissoon must submit to treatment, including sessions with an expert on cult behavior.
The maximum sentence for child abuse resulting in death is 30 years, and defendants typically receive between 12 and 20 years, according to Maryland sentencing guidelines.
Ramkissoon will fare much better under the plea deal than if she had pursued an insanity defense, Silverman said. A court psychiatrist found that she was both competent to stand trial and could have been held criminally responsible for Javon’s death because she knew the difference between right and wrong.
Silverman could have challenged that finding, and he said prosecutors told him they wouldn’t have stood in his way. In a letter to Silverman that outlined the terms of the plea deal, prosecutors said the finding of criminal responsibility was “somewhat surprising.”
If Ramkissoon had been found not criminally responsible in court, she would have been committed indefinitely to a state mental hospital. By pleading guilty, she will serve little jail time and still get the treatment she needs, Silverman said.
The judge also ordered the four co-defendants to appear before another judge Tuesday to receive a new trial date. Alleged cult leader Queen Antoinette and ex-members Trevia Williams and Marcus A. Cobbs are being held without bail. Steven L. Bynum is free on his own recognizance.