Brian Lee Tribble, who gained notoriety in 1986 when he was implicated in the cocaine-induced death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias, has pleaded guilty to an unrelated federal charge of cocaine conspiracy.
Tribble, 28, who was acquitted by a state court jury in 1987 of supplying Bias with the fatal dose of cocaine, entered his guilty plea in the new case yesterday to Judge Joseph C. Howard in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
In a plea bargain with Assistant U.S. Attorney E. Thomas Roberts, Tribble agreed to a no-parole prison term of 10 years and one month, plus a five-year term of supervised release afterward.
Tribble also agreed to forfeit three cars, his Forestville home and personal property seized by U.S. marshals after his arrest in August after a cocaine transaction in New Carrollton.
Howard set sentencing for Jan. 8, 1991.
Defense attorney Thomas C. Morrow said later that Tribble, who originally pleaded not guilty to the current charge, decided to change his plea in the face of "substantial" government evidence, including a videotape that showed him actively participating in the cocaine deal with an undercover government witness.
"I think he made a rational decision," Morrow said of Tribble. "He was motivated by his desire to end his pain and the pain of his family. It was time for him to stand up and admit his responsibilities."
However, Morrow portrayed Tribble as a victim of society. "As long as an individual can make as much money in one hour selling cocaine as he can in a month of hard work, drugs will be a deadly attraction," the lawyer said.
U.S. Attorney Breckinridge L. Willcox decried Morrow's comments and claimed that Tribble ran a "major cocaine and crack ring" in Washington and its Maryland suburbs for at least two years.
"If Mr. Tribble did not learn his lesson in 1987, he'll never learn it," Willcox said. "People who distribute drugs are victims only of their own greed."
Roberts said in a statement of facts to the court that Brian Tribble was involved in the cocaine conspiracy from 1988 to August 1990; that he and his organization sold at least 50 kilograms of cocaine imported from Florida, New York and California; and that he was directly involved in the undercover purchase that led to his arrest.
The defendant, who earlier had denied any knowledge of the alleged conspiracy, freely admitted to Howard that he was, in fact, guilty of those activities.
"Is anything incorrect?" the judge asked after Roberts read the statement.
"No, it isn't," Tribble replied.
The defendant's mother, Loretta Tribble, sat quietly in the courtroom as her son entered his plea and became misty-eyed as a marshal led him away when court adjourned. After months of loudly criticizing law enforcement officials for harassing her son, she declined yesterday to comment on his plea.
Willcox said later that Tribble can expect to serve nearly nine years of the bargained prison term, with time off for good behavior.