Federal prosecutors have asked a trial jury to convict alleged Baltimore drug lord Linwood "Rudy" Williams of operating a continuing criminal enterprise and other criminal charges based on nearly four months of trial evidence that he organized and operated one of the most successful heroin rings in Baltimore history.
But defense attorneys countered in closing arguments yesterday that the government's case against Williams and nine co-defendants has been a vendetta. They said it stemmed from his two acquittals in Baltimore Circuit Court in weapons and drug cases in 1987 and 1988.
Williams and his co-defendants have been on trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore since Dec. 10 on conspiracy, heroin possession-distribution, money-laundering and weapons charges.
If Williams, 36, is convicted of the continuing criminal enterprise count, known as a "super-kingpin" charge, he faces a mandatory life sentence without parole.
The jurors, known only by numbers to prevent possible intimidation, are expected to begin deliberations late today or early tomorrow after other defendants' lawyers finish closing arguments. The jurors have been under guard in the courthouse throughout the trial, and were sequestered last night by Senior Judge Frank A. Kaufman until they deliver a verdict.
Federal prosecutors Katharine J. Armentrout and Andrew L. Smith, and co-prosecutor Howard B. Gersh of the Baltimore state's attorney's office, presented a jam-packed plate of trial evidence that included thousands of documents, hundreds of tape recordings from wiretaps and testimony from 91 witnesses, at least 15 of them under federal protection.
Armentrout told the jury yesterday that there "is so much evidence in this case it's hard to tell where the conspiracy began."
But she said the evidence has shown Williams' "continued interaction" with drug suppliers in New York, Washington, Nigeria, Brazil and Canada to feed a distribution network that put nearly 140 pounds of heroin on Baltimore's streets from 1986 to April 1990.
Four admitted suppliers testified at the trial.
Armentrout described Williams as "an extremely intelligent man" who "was up and on the phone every day at 7 a.m., like clockwork." She said he worked hard and enjoyed spending his drug money with his wife, Lisa Slater Williams, a co-defendant accused of helping him launder it.
The prosecutor said Rudy Williams spent more than $2 million in four years, $1.6 million-plus on drugs and related expenses, and another $419,000 on expensive cars, furs and gold jewelry with his wife.
Williams testified late in the trial that he was a gambler and "street hustler" who made a lucrative living selling watches, jewelry and stolen property.
He adamantly denied drug dealing, said prosecutors wrongly identified his voice on many of the tape recordings and said numerous phone calls alleged to be drug conversations merely depicted him doing "ordinary business transactions."
Defense attorneys Luther West and William B. Purpura sharply accused prosecutors of threatening and intimidating witnesses and potential witnesses, and presenting purely circumstantial evidence.
West attacked the credibility of the government's "contract witnesses," who got plea bargains or immunity for their testimony, and said the Williams' L&L Bail Bond business alone provided the two with enough money to more than cover their $419,000 expenditures.
And, after more than a year of investigation, West told the jury, "there is no physical evidence of drug dealing by Rudy Williams at all," including the alleged $1.6 million drug expenditures.
Purpura said Rudy and Lisa Williams "led a shallow life, with money going into their pockets [from the bail bond business] and money going out," but said their spending had nothing to do with drugs.
"I can't think of a better way for a black man to hide drug proceeds than to drive a $65,000 car around Baltimore and Washington," Purpura said acerbically.