Ocean City Today

Assault conviction for Berlin man

By Brian Gilliland | Apr 12, 2018
Justin Hess

(April 13, 2018) Despite not having proof of any victims in the incident, Interim State’s Attorney Bill McDermott secured a conviction on charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and possession of a replica firearm against Justin Hess, 31, in Circuit Court last week.

It took the jury less than five minutes to return a verdict in a case that occurred during the H2O International event last September in Ocean City.

Just before midnight on Sept. 29, an undercover patrol near Trimper Avenue between 35th and 36th streets saw a four-door Dodge Ram pickup idling in the bus lane.

Two plainclothes officers watched a person later identified as Hess walking from the truck toward a group of H2Oi onlookers and shove an unidentified male apparently without provocation.

In response, the victim approached Hess, who then apparently reached into his waistband and brandished the replica weapon. However, the onlookers and male victim didn’t know it was a replica at the time.

The officers reported hearing screams of “he has a gun” coming from the crowd, and seeing several members hold up their hands while others scattered.

Some people fled onto Coastal Highway, the officers reported, which becomes crowded during car events like H2Oi.

Hess then returned to the truck and left the scene. Despite difficult conditions because of the panic and traffic, the undercover police were able to track the truck southbound and reported it to marked patrol units in the area.

The vehicle was stopped, and a search revealed a black BB gun modeled to look like a nine-millimeter pistol.

McDermott said argued that Hess intended to inspire fear in the crowd, which allows the jury to infer assault — despite lacking victims in the case.

A sentencing hearing for Hess is scheduled in June, pending a presentencing investigation.

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