By ANDREW SCHOTZ
7:03 PM EST, December 19, 2012
When Hagerstown Police Officer Thomas Cox investigated a report of suspicious vehicles in a parking lot in April, he encountered a man with a gun.
Jarvel Fostion of Hagerstown pulled the gun from his waistband during a scuffle with the officer, Cox recalled during an interview on Wednesday. Before Fostion could raise the gun high enough to point it at him, Cox whacked Fostion’s arm with a flashlight, Cox said.
That confrontation led to Fostion entering an Alford plea on Wednesday to first-degree assault and being ordered to serve seven years in prison. The full sentence was 25 years, but 18 years were suspended.
An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt, but an acknowledgment that the prosecution probably has enough evidence for a conviction.
Fostion, who turned 19 in October, and Cox got to formally address each other in court, a safe distance apart. Cox went first.
“I would hope you learn something from this,” Cox said to Fostion, who silently mouthed a few words at the officer, then stopped looking at him.
“There’s no reason you need to carry a gun out on the street,” Cox continued.
Cox said Fostion’s behavior makes the city “a worse place.”
“Hopefully, when you come back,” Cox said, “you can contribute instead of taking away.”
Later, during his chance to speak, Fostion faced people he knew in the gallery and said, “Sorry for putting y’all through this.”
He pivoted to look at Cox, who was sitting among several Hagerstown police officers, and said, “You know what the truth is.”
Fostion described himself as straightforward and willing to accept the consequences of what he has done.
Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell said he agreed with Cox that Fostion is setting a bad course for his adult life.
If Cox had his service weapon in his hand, “you could have been shot, justifiably, by the officer and killed,” McDowell said.
“You must change your life now and forever,” the judge said, “or else (run) the risk of living the rest of your life in prison.”
Online court records show that five other charges against Fostion were dropped, including second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and use of a firearm during a violent crime.
Fostion’s sentence also includes five years of probation after he’s released from prison and a $45 fee for court costs.
The confrontation happened on April 20 in the parking lot of the City Washtub Laundromat at West Church and North Prospect streets.
Cox said Fostion, who was sitting in a vehicle as the officer approached, got out and pushed him. Fostion reached for a gun, and Cox swung a flashlight.
“You didn’t really think about it,” Cox said. “It’s just a reaction.”
According to Deputy Washington County State’s Attorney Joseph Michael, the gun was a .22-caliber revolver, loaded and operable.
Michael said Fostion has been convicted twice in prior assault cases. If he commits a crime while incarcerated, it could activate the suspended 18 years on his prison sentence, Michael said.
In court, Fostion’s attorney, James Podlas, said Fostion has a “troubled” past, but this is his first offense involving a firearm.
Podlas noted that Fostion was stabbed last year and probably was carrying the gun for protection.
“I don’t believe he had any intention of harming the officer,” Podlas said.
In October 2011, Maurice D. McMillan stabbed Fostion nine times during a fight outside McMillan’s Hagerstown home, The Herald-Mail reported earlier this year.
A friend of Fostion’s testified that McMillan and Fostion had been texting each other about a stolen bicycle.
Fostion refused to testify in the prosecution of McMillan, who was acquitted of attempted second-degree murder but convicted of first-degree assault.
Assistant State’s Attorney Gina Cirincion said Fostion was found guilty of contempt and sentenced to six months in jail.
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