Suspect Takes Plea As Facts Emerge About Incident

SNOW HILL – One of two defendants facing first-degree murder charges in the beating death of the Berlin teen in May had his case resolved this week when he pleaded guilty late Wednesday to a lesser reckless endangerment charge and was sentenced to five years in jail, all of which was all suspended but the 140 days he already served.

Fernando Angelo Musiani, 19, of Ocean City, who was charged with first-degree murder for his role in the death of Michael Harry Mitchell on May 29, pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment during an impromptu plea hearing on Wednesday and was sentenced to five years in jail with all but time served suspended. Musiani was reportedly released from jail Wednesday.

On May 29, a group of individuals including Musiani and his co-defendant, Dominic Richard Canale, 22, of Ocean City, whose own first-degree murder trial is set to get underway next week, were confronted by another group in the Decatur Farms community in Berlin. According to police reports, what began as a verbal altercation turned deadly when Musiani allegedly popped the trunk of his vehicle, allowing Canale to retrieve a baseball bat. Canale allegedly began swinging the bat wildly at the group, first striking Daniel Riley and then Mitchell, who was allegedly struck in the right temple area, knocking him to the ground unconscious and bleeding profusely from the head, according to police reports. He was later pronounced dead from his injuries at AGH. Musiani, Canale and a third suspect, who was later cleared in the case, fled the scene but were taken into custody a short time later.

New information about the events that led to the beating death of Mitchell emerged recently with the arraignment and initial appearance earlier this month of another man, Michael Patrick Ryan, 31, of Berlin, who reportedly hosted the party where the confrontation first began and allegedly punched Canale with a closed fist, touching off the altercation. Ryan was arraigned on Oct. 15 on a second-degree assault charge for his alleged attack on Canale as well as making a false statement to a police officer and obstructing and hindering an investigation.

Immediately following the homicide, Ryan allegedly advised witnesses who attended the party to deny he was involved in the assault through face-to-face contacts and text messaging. He allegedly told witnesses to lie to police about his involvement because he could lose his job with the Berlin Fire Department if the truth was revealed. Incidentally, Mitchell was also active with the fire department.

Ryan was later interviewed by detectives and provided a false statement regarding his involvement, according to police reports. His denials and false statements allegedly delayed and hindered the probe for days as police tried to find the truth about the homicide, according to court documents.

Several of the same witnesses interviewed told police, in their opinion, Ryan instigated the fight that ultimately led to Mitchell’s death that night. Other witness statements indicate Ryan’s actions led to the escalation of the events that night. Ryan’s trial date is set for Jan. 8.