High court rejects bid for appeal by drug kingpin Justices also turn back S&L figure on fund access

June 04, 1991|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau of The Sun David Simon of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- A move by convicted Baltimore drug kingpin Walter R. Webster to gain his freedom from federal prison by having his 50-year prison sentence cut to five years failed in the Supreme Court yesterday.

Webster, who also went by the names "Mr. G" and "Gangster," was convicted 12 years ago of running a large-scale heroin and cocaine distribution ring out of the 1508 Club Tavern and Liquor Store.

Among others convicted with him were the woman with whom he lived, Norma Thompson, and a heroin distributor, Herbert Leon Johnson.

Webster was sentenced to 50 years under the federal drug kingpin law, for racketeering and for using a telephone in his crimes, after he declined to become a cooperating witness in an ongoing federal corruption probe aimed at high-ranking members of the Baltimore Police Department.

More recently, Webster's name surfaced in police reports as the man believed to have carried out a 1969 murder-for-hire slaying in Prince George's County in which a Baltimore insurance broker arranged to have his wife killed.

That crime only came to light when the same man tried to arrange a similar killing of his second wife three years ago, was caught, and then confessed to the earlier plot. Although named in police accounts as the trigger man in the 1969 crime, Webster has yet to be charged in that crime, which remains under investigation.

Webster also had been convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruling on his first appeal, overturned that part of the conviction.

After that ruling, Webster started a new challenge to his conviction on the remaining counts, but U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Young threw out that challenge in late 1989, and the Circuit Court agreed with that decision last year.

His later challenge was based on a complaint that his defense lawyer had been ineffective.

The Supreme Court gave no reason for refusing to hear his appeal.

In a second action yesterday on a Maryland criminal case, the court turned aside an appeal by Barbara A. McKinney of Bethesda, former vice president and general counsel of a holding company that had controlled Community Savings and Loan in Bethesda. She is facing charges of alleged fraud. .

In her appeal, Ms. McKinney sought to challenge a federal court order that freezes more than $500,000 in funds that she claims are hers, part of which she wants to use to pay a lawyer to defend her in court. Those funds were frozen pending a final ruling on whether they are to be forfeited as the proceeds of a racketeering crime.

Community Savings was put into receivership by a state court in 1985 when it was unable to return funds to its depositors. After a civil court jury had awarded the Maryland Deposit Insurance Fund $112 million in a judgment against Tom J. Billman, who headed Community, Mr. Billman fled the country. Since charged with racketeering crimes for allegedly looting the thrift of $28 million, he remains a fugitive.

As long as Mr. Billman remains out of the country, and unavailable for trial, the assets that Ms. McKinney claims to own are likely to remain frozen and out of her reach.

The court made no comment in declining to hear her appeal.

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