Sunday, January 9, 2011

Teen accused of setting fire to pit bull charged again

By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

Arraignment scheduled a week after animal cruelty trial

Seven months after Baltimore prosecutors dropped gun and drug charges against teenage twins accused of setting fire to a pit bull puppy, one of the young men was arrested again — this time on attempted murder charges.

Travers Johnson, 18, is slated for arraignment Jan. 27 on charges of attempted murder, assault and handgun violations — roughly a week after he and his brother, Tremayne Johnson, are scheduled for trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court on animal cruelty and mutilation charges.

The teenagers are accused of dousing a pit bull in gasoline, then lighting it afire for sport in May 2009.

The dog, nicknamed Phoenix by rescue workers, had to be euthanized. Her injuries drew national outrage, with many calling for tougher treatment of animal abusers. Supporters donated more than $25,000 to a reward fund to catch the attackers.

The Johnson brothers pleaded not guilty in that case and are scheduled for trial Jan. 19. No one answered the phone at the Pulaski Street rowhouse of their father, Charles Johnson, Sunday night, and their attorney's voice mail box was full.

During the Phoenix investigation, police searching the Johnsons' house in June 2009 said they found a gun and a small amount of marijuana, leading to additional charges against the three Johnsons. The twins were ordered held without bail.

But prosecutors dropped the gun and drug charges in March, setting the young men free pending the animal-cruelty case, in which they are out on $25,000 bail, according to online court records.

Travers Johnson was arrested again in October and charged with attempted murder, as well as discharging a firearm, records show. No other details were immediately available Sunday night.

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