6/28/22—The exterior of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse., Courthouse East.

A man who once received a controversial plea deal for setting his ex-girlfriend’s townhome on fire in Baltimore while she and her roommates were sleeping pleaded guilty on Tuesday to attempted murder and arson and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Luther Trent, 22, of North Baltimore, poured gasoline along the outside of the townhome on Linden Avenue near Robert Street in Bolton Hill and set it on fire at about 1:30 a.m. on May 21, 2021. His ex-girlfriend and her two roommates were not physically hurt.

“I do regret what I did,” Trent said via Zoom from the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center. “I disrupted more than three peoples’ lives.”

Trent initially pleaded guilty to first-degree arson in 2021 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but nine years, six months and 27 days suspended — plus three years’ probation. That immediately cleared his release from jail after he’d served served under six months.

In an interview with WBFF-TV (FOX45) after his release, Trent likened what he did to “Romeo and Juliet,” remarking, “If I can’t have her, nobody can, or at least no one in Baltimore.” He also commented that he “shouldn’t be out right now.”

Later, Circuit Judge Melissa M. Phinn threw out the plea agreement and ordered Trent back into custody after an attorney representing his ex-girlfriend and her roommates filed a motion arguing that the process violated Maryland law. They said it violated the law because they did not have the opportunity to give statements before the court bound itself to a particular sentence.

Meanwhile, as the state case proceeded, Trent was indicted in U.S. District Court. He later pleaded guilty to malicious destruction of property by fire and was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.

In the state case, Trent pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court to three counts of attempted first-degree murder as well as one count of first-degree arson for a sentence of 40 years in prison, with all but 22 years suspended. He must also spend five years on probation.

The state and federal sentence are set to run at the same time.

Trent will first serve time in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He will spend any remaining time in the care of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

In an interview, Allan Rombo, Trent’s attorney, said he intends to file an appeal to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, arguing that his client should be entitled to the original plea agreement.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, he said, publicly defended the resolution as being within the sentencing guidelines. Rombo described his client as a “sacrificial lamb” in the race for Baltimore state’s attorney, during which candidates used the plea deal to criticize the incumbent in the Democratic primary.

“It wasn’t until Mr. Trent became a political liability that the state sought to vacate a legally-imposed sentence,” Rombo said.

He said he could not recall a case that state prosecutors continued to pursue after federal prosecutors obtained a conviction.

Zy Richardson, a spokesperson for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a statement, Thiru Vignarajah, an attorney who’s representing the three victims in the case pro bono, said, “The story of Luther Trent reflects the best and worst of Baltimore.”

“It should remain a cause for alarm that a man charged with attempted murder and arson was sent home over the objection of victims who had the courage to stand up to him,” said Vignarajah, who unsuccessfully ran for Baltimore state’s attorney in 2022. “That is not how victims of violent crime should be treated, in this case or any other.

“At the same time, today’s sentencing of Luther Trent shows it is possible to deliver justice in Baltimore,” he later added. “For us, this brings a measure of closure to what has been a traumatic nightmare.”

He described the prosecution as a “case study in the failures of the city justice system.” Vignarajah said he and his clients are “pleased this injustice has been corrected and are grateful to all the people who helped make that possible.”

Said Vignarajah: “We only hope that this will inspire others to stand up and fight, knowing that once in a while, in the end, even in Baltimore, justice can prevail.”

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