Federal prosecutors find out crime sometimes does pay Despite $2 million cost of trial, U.S. made a profit with conviction of Rudy Williams.

April 11, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

Federal officials spent more than $2 million investigating and prosecuting Baltimore drug distributor Linwood R. "Rudy" Williams and his gang. But nobody in the courthouse is complaining.

The costs split about evenly between fixed expenses, such as salaries, and direct charges for such items as witnesses protection and wiretaps used to investigate the Williams gang, regarded as one of the largest and most violent in Baltimore history. Weighed against the social costs of drug-related crime, the $2 million spent to bring Williams and the others to justice might have been cheap, some officials said.

In contrast to the expenditures, authorities seized an estimated $3.5 million in assets -- cash, cars, furs, jewelry and other property -- that Williams and his convicted cronies will forfeit to the government. Money from the sale of those items will more than cover the investigative and prosecution costs, said Harvey E. Eisenberg, an assistant U.S. attorney who heads the task force that prosecuted Williams.

"We made a $1.5 million profit on Rudy Williams," Eisenberg said. "So I'm not worried about cost."

The expense of the case illustrates the resources that major drug prosecutions demand. The final cost figure, $2,063,240, was generated by the trial's extraordinary length -- 69 days -- and the massive amount of evidence -- thousands of documents, hundreds of wiretap tapes and 91 witnesses -- that prosecutors used to nail down the convictions.

"It's the price we pay for a secure society," said U.S. Marshal Scott A. Sewell, who hired off-duty police officers and assigned extra court security officers and deputy marshals to maintain security during the Williams trial.

John S. "Jack" Taylor, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration's Baltimore office, said the case was "extremely significant to Baltimore because Rudy Williams had established himself as a much-feared individual. He was a large-scale trafficker and was very violent.

"There was nothing that we didn't do in this case for a lack of money."

The costs fall roughly into three categories: fixed, trial and

combined costs.

Fixed costs were $686,650, for such items as courthouse security and surveillance equipment, and the salaries of prosecutors, agents, police and court personnel. This is money the government would have spent even if Williams and his co-defendants had not been prosecuted. Special courtroom equipment bought for the Williams trial, for example, will be re-used.

Trial costs amounted to $1,012,270. That figure includes overtime for deputy marshals and other security officers, jury bills, witness security and agents' travel.

Combined costs total $364,320. This figure represents mostly fixed costs, along with some trial expenses that were not separated as such by the officials who supplied them. These include salaries for deputy marshals, court security officers and off-duty police who provided extra security for the trial, plus salaries, expenses and overtime for police and other investigators during 90 days of wiretaps that led to Williams' indictment.

Ron Wiley, a deputy clerk of the court who assembled some of the figures, said many of the estimates may be low. "You could take the final figure, add 10 percent and still be safe," he said. "There's probably something we forgot."

The figures show:

* The government spent some $750,000 for general law enforcement in the Williams case. That includes prosecutors' salaries for more than a year, investigators' salaries and special security measures -- such as witness travel and relocation -- to protect more than a dozen people who testified at the trial under plea bargains or grants of immunity.

Court-ordered wiretaps alone, in late 1989 and early 1990, cost ,, an estimated $300,000, Taylor said. That money paid the salaries of some 40 police and federal agents who monitored suspects' phones and gathered evidence used in the trial.

DEA agents also interviewed potential witnesses in Kenya, Brazil, Montreal and Rome, where the Italian Supreme Court recently agreed to extradite an alleged Williams drug supplier for a later trial here. The agents' travel cost $10,000.

* The U.S. Marshal Service spent $415,320 on court security for the trial itself and the pretrial motions hearings the defendants attended. Some $83,000 of that was for overtime, which Sewell attributed to extra security precautions and jury sequestration during deliberations.

Security costs included the purchase and installation of a special courtroom sound system; headsets so jurors, defendants and attorneys could listen to the wiretap tapes; surveillance equipment and a closed-circuit TV system used by marshals and defendants in the courthouse lockup.

* Jury bills totaled $104,550, including per diem pay, travel to and from court at 24 cents per mile, lunches throughout the trial because the jurors were not allowed to leave the building, and hotel, food and phone bills during the 15 days the panel was sequestered.

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