Suspect's outbursts draw multiple contempt findings

February 07, 1991|By David Simon

The government case against suspected narcotics kingpin Linwood "Rudy" Williams is only about half complete, but if Mr. Williams' courtroom demeanor is any indication, he's heard more than enough.

After listening to potentially damaging testimony by a Nigerian drug courier who took the stand against Mr. Williams and 11 co-defendants in federal court Tuesday, the reedy, diminutive Mr. Williams exploded in rage, prompting repeated criminal contempt citations from U.S. District Judge Frank A. Kaufman.

Cautioned by Judge Kaufman about using body language and muttering to show his feelings about government witnesses, Mr. Williams "went ballistic," a federal agent said.

"F--- you, judge," Mr. Williams told Judge Kaufman, who continued to cite the drug figure with additional contempt charges after each outburst. The defendant responded to each citation by asking for another.

"Go ahead, do it again," Mr. Williams told the judge at one point. When the judge obliged him with another contempt charge, the defendant again countered with more obscenity. The encounter lasted 45 minutes and brought a herd of federal marshals into the courtroom.

In sum, Mr. Williams was cited for contempt at least 10 times. "We lost count after a while," said one federal agent in the courtroom.

In a long and storied career in Baltimore's courtrooms, Mr. Williams has rarely lost his composure to such a degree. Over the last six years, Mr. Williams has been found not guilty of two drug-related murders, handgun charges and a 1988 drug possession case.

The current case is the result of a yearlong probe involving court-ordered wiretaps and other electronic surveillance, cooperating witnesses and a long assets investigation. The trial has been going on since Dec. 10.

Yesterday, Mr. Williams was considerably more subdued in court as prosecutors played surveillance tapes of drug-related conversations involving various participants in the alleged conspiracy.

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