Federal prosecutors say they will seek a maximum prison term of life without parole for Baltimore heroin distributors Linwood R. "Rudy" Williams and his nephew, Namond Williams.
A U.S. District Court jury convicted the Williamses and five others yesterday of a variety of heroin-related conspiracy, drug-distribution, money-laundering and weapons charges. The verdict came in the 66th day of the trial, after nearly 12 days of deliberation.
Rudy Williams was convicted of eight charges. But the panel found him not guilty of a "superkingpin" charge that would have dictated life imprisonment with no parole. It also deadlocked on a less serious charge of operating a continuing criminal enterprise.
Prosecutors contended that he and his co-defendants peddled 140 pounds of heroin in Baltimore from 1986 to 1990 and operated one of the most violent drug rings in city history.
But the jury's deadlock on the criminal enterprise count, and its acquittal of Rudy Williams on the one charge, indicated that some jurors didn't believe he distributed such vast amounts of drugs. The jury convicted only four of 10 defendants of conspiracy.
Namond Williams, who called his drug dealing "my little activities," was convicted of conspiracy, money laundering and two distribution counts. The jury also convicted Carvel L. Jones Jr. and Sean A. Wilson, his bodyguards, of conspiracy.
Harvey E. Eisenberg, regional head of the federal drug task force that tried the case, said prosecutors will ask Senior Judge Frank A. Kaufman to sentence Rudy and Namond Williams to life in prison based on the totality of their drug activities. Sentencing was set for June 14.
Rudy Williams' wife, former airline stewardess Lisa Slater Williams, won acquittals on conspiracy and money-laundering charges. Two other defendants were acquitted of single conspiracy counts, and three more were convicted of distribution and-or weapons counts.
Prosecutor Katharine J. Armentrout said the government will not seek to retry Rudy Williams on the continuing-criminal-enterprise count despite the jury's deadlock.
"His guidelines are gonna put him way up there" in a sentencing range of 360 months to life, she said, "so it makes no difference to us. I'm very happy with the verdict."
William B. Purpura, Rudy Williams' lead defense counsel, said the government "over-prosecuted . . . they [prosecutors] credited Rudy with directing too many people." He noted that defendants were acquitted on 13 of 32 charges in the case.
David Solomon and Robert T. Durkin Jr., Lisa Williams' lawyers, said they were "ecstatic" at the verdict. "The evidence just was not there," Solomon said.
Armentrout had told the jury that "fact after fact after fact leads to the inescapable conclusion" of Williams' guilt.
But defense attorneys roundly criticized prosecutors for using a convicted perjurer, admitted heroin suppliers and numerous denizens of Williams' distribution ring as trial witnesses. Despite two years of investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service and Baltimore police, the defense lawyers noted there was an absence of actual drugs and cash put into evidence, challenging prosecutors' contentions that Williams was a major dealer.
Purpura and co-counsel Luther West also hammered on what they called "a vendetta" against Williams, who had been convicted of manslaughter but acquitted of drug and weapons counts in Baltimore Circuit Court.
And, they railed against the plea bargains and immunity from prosecution the government gave witnesses who, they said, were at least as culpable as Rudy Williams.
One such witness, Audrey Franklin, estimated she brought more than $6 million worth of heroin to Baltimore during Williams' conspiracy. She was relocated in the Witness Protection Program and got $35,000 from the government to start a new life, she said.
Said Armentrout: "When you go to hell to prosecute the devil, you must go to hell to find your witnesses."
Perhaps the most damaging trial testimony came from Donald Nelson, a convicted felon and former member of Namond Williams' gang. Nelson said he perjured himself in state court a few years ago so Rudy Williams could go free. Williams was acquitted in that case.
Prosecutors were not allowed to mention to the jury the gang's alleged record of violence, including several suspected murders.
But Nelson testified that he and Namond Williams repeatedly stabbed a street dealer who crossed the organization, and left him bleeding in an alley. And, an admitted addict said gang enforcers hit him in the face with a hammer for stealing small amounts of heroin that he was supposed to sell.
Rudy Williams denied drug dealing. He testified that he made his living gambling and "street hustling," selling jewelry and stolen merchandise, and operating L&L Bail Bond with his wife.
Prosecutors contended, however, that Rudy and Lisa Williams spent more than $2 million in four years -- far more than they made at L&L -- and that heroin generated most of their income.