Key drug trial witness recants testimony

October 10, 1990|By Raymond L. Sanchez | Raymond L. Sanchez,Evening Sun Staff

More than a year after a jury acquitted Linwood R. "Rudy" Williams of drug and assault charges, the man whose testimony helped the jurors reach their verdict has admitted that he lied on the stand.

Donald L. Nelson, 34, of the 700 block of Fayette St., yesterday pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court to committing perjury when he took the stand on Oct. 27, 1988.

In the trial, which was prosecuted by Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms, the state alleged that Williams was a passenger in a car that police stopped on Virginia Avenue one day in January 1988. The passenger fled and left behind a jacket with Williams' birth certificate, more than 30 grams of heroin worth $78,400 and $1,900 in cash.

Defense lawyer William Monfried produced witnesses who testified Williams had been in New York City at the time. He also produced Donald Nelson, a convicted armed robber and admitted drug courier, who testified he had been the passenger in the car and that he had assaulted one of the officers and escaped.

"I have a conscience, too," Nelson testified during the trial. "I ain't coming as no Good Samaritan. I'm here to exonerate the dude."

Williams, 34, was acquitted in April 1989 of charges of heroin possession, assault and resisting arrest. He cannot be tried again on those charges as a result of Nelson's disclosure that he perjured himself.

Nelson has now recanted his testimony, however.

"Nelson admitted that [he and Williams] helped each other in different matters," prosecutor Howard Gersh said yesterday.

Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 10. Nelson could receive up to 10 years in prison. Under the plea bargain, Nelson must "fully and truthfully disclose to the government everything he knows about narcotics trafficking."

"He fooled a lot of people," Monfried said. "He absolutely fooled the hell out of me. He's liable to say he killed President Kennedy if he gets the right deal. Not only did he convince me but he convinced the jurors."

As part of the plea agreement, Nelson must cooperate with state and federal drug investigations or face prosecution on charges of perjury, false declaration and obstruction of justice.

Williams is awaiting trial on federal drug charges unrelated to the earlier case in U.S. District Court.

Nelson was a co-defendant in that same case but drug charges against him were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

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