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.
"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resurrected, as you still hold some hope he will be, you may withdraw the plea, and the charges will be nolle prossed [withdrawn] against you."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."
Ramkissoon, listed in court records as five feet tall and 100 pounds, was led into court wearing jeans, a bright yellow shirt, leg chains and handcuffs.
She displayed little emotion, walking past friends and relatives without appearing to make any prolonged eye contact. Her mother sobbed in her seat, both before the plea and while prosecutors read aloud the facts as they see them.
Prosecutors said Queen Antoinette concluded that Javon had developed a "spirit of rebellion" and should not be given food or water for at least two days. Fearing that his mother, Ramkissoon, might "break down and feed the child," Queen Antoinette ordered that the child be given to another group member, prosecutors alleged yesterday.
After Javon died, he was placed on a couch while everyone knelt down and prayed. Ramkissoon also danced around her son, prosecutors said. The boy's body was later moved to a back room.
At one point, two members measured Jason's body and bought a suitcase. Members believed that if the body could travel with them, it could be resurrected at a later date, said Steven Silverman, Ramkissoon's attorney. The group members left the suitcase with a man they had befriended. Police eventually discovered it in his shed in Philadelphia.
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.