A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge sentenced Herbert “Bertie” Randall to nine years in prison for an armed carjacking incident involving Randall and three other teenagers. At the hearing, Randall’s mother accused a broken medical system of failing to help treat her son’s diagnosed mental illness, while the judge and victims stressed the need for deterrence amid a recent county-wide spate of violence.
The charges arise from an incident in June 2022 at the St. Elmo parking garage in downtown Bethesda. One of the victims, who requested anonymity, told Judge Christopher Fogleman that she, her husband and a friend from out of town were having dinner on the day of the attack.
She said that on their way back to the car just after 10 p.m., Randall, who was 18 at the time, and three other teenagers ages 15, 16 and 17 accosted the trio. The victim who spoke in court said she remembers the defendant pointing a gun at her friend’s chest and demanding his car keys.
“My body was filled with so much terror,” she told the judge.
Police ultimately charged four teenagers in connection with the crime, including Randall. On Nov. 21, he pleaded guilty to counts of armed carjacking and use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence. The parties agreed to a 14-year cap on the amount of time he would serve.
The female victim described experiencing severe post-traumatic symptoms after the incident, including constant anxiety and recurring flashbacks of the gun’s laser beam glowing red on her friend’s chest. She no longer allows her children to go to the Bethesda mall unaccompanied and said the incident has shaken her entire family.
She said what disturbs her most is the lack of a logical reason for the violence, describing the defendants as “willing participants who enjoyed terrorizing and possibly murdering people just for the thrill of it.”
Fogleman and prosecutor Peter Larson both echoed the victim’s concern. Fogleman noted that the teenagers were “homegrown” Bethesda residents and did not come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, making this case “unusual.” He also referenced the recent murder of 62-year-old family man Charles Reynolds in a Silver Spring parking garage as evidence of a broader stranger-on-stranger trend of violence.
“Our parking garages apparently aren’t safe,” he said. “There’s no part of the county that’s immune from this.”
Richard Lawrence, who had lent his vehicle to the visiting friend later carjacked, provided a statement via Zoom. “I hope the defendant is deeply ashamed of his actions,” he said, and asked the judge to issue a strict sentence.
Mental health complications
Licensed clinical psychologist Jessica Hasson, hired by defense attorney Tom DeGonia, presented testimony to the judge regarding Randall’s mental health diagnoses. After reviewing over 600 pages of records and meeting with the patient and his mother, she diagnosed Randall with schizophrenia. Over the years, she said, he’s been committed to psychiatric wards five times and received a variety of severe diagnoses including psychotic and bipolar disorders.
Hasson told Bethesda Beat in an interview that Montgomery County launched a Mental Health Problem-Solving Court in 2016 at both the county and district level. The program is offered as a special condition of probation to defendants with mental illness. It provides participants with a customized care plan to assist with their successful reintegration into society. Anyone can refer a defendant to the program. Currently, Hasson said she does not believe anyone has recommended Randall.
Randall’s mother apologized to the victims in open court and asked the judge for leniency on her son’s behalf. She said she’s spent close to $1 million trying to get him the mental health support she believes he needs. After each of his psychiatric commitments, she said he received no follow-up care from the institutions. She blamed a broken medical system for failing her son and said she believed he “slipped through the cracks.”
Hasson told Bethesda Beat that for someone to be committed to a psychiatric unit, they have to be deemed an imminent danger to themselves or others. Because of the high demand for hospital beds, she said, psychiatric facilities primarily focus on stabilizing patients to the point where there’s no longer an immediate safety risk. These units often recommend follow-up with a psychiatrist or therapist after discharge, but “there’s no mandate you have to go,” she said.
Randall apologized directly to the victims and to his own family, saying in open court that he accepted full responsibility for his actions and “the impact they had on so many people.”
Fogleman said he received and considered 27 letters in connection with Randall’s sentencing, including a comprehensive mental health report from Hasson.
A message to the community
Before issuing his sentence, Fogleman addressed the defendant directly.
“What made you think it was a good idea to get a gun?” he asked the teenager. “That doesn’t sound like something attributable to mental health.”
“At the time, it was easily available,” Randall responded. He said on the day of the incident, after drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana laced with fentanyl, he “lost grip on reality.” He also said he grew up seeing guns in movies and “thought it was cool.”
Fogleman ultimately sentenced Randall to 25 years in prison between the two counts. Randall will serve the sentences consecutively, which amounts to 9 years served and 16 suspended, with 5 years of supervised probation upon release. His probation contains several special conditions, including mandatory mental health treatment, alcohol and drug treatment, restrictions on consuming alcohol and marijuana, and a requirement that he take all medications appropriately prescribed to him.
The judge said he will recommend Randall serve his sentence at the Patuxent Institution, a maximum-security prison in Jessup that specializes in providing mental health treatment to inmates. It’s home to the Patuxent Youth Program, designed to meet the unique needs of young inmates. Patuxent also partners with Georgetown University to offer a program where incarcerated people can earn their bachelor’s degree from the school.
After issuing his sentence, Fogleman addressed the courtroom.
“I owe a responsibility to the community to send a message that carjacking doesn’t just get a slap on the wrist,” he said.
The female victim, who has been in close communication with Larson, told Bethesda Beat that both the 15- and 16-year-old defendants have already pleaded guilty to carjacking-related charges in juvenile court. A hearing will be held on Jan. 13 to determine whether the last of the four defendants, the 17-year-old, will be allowed to have his case moved to juvenile court.