ANNAPOLIS YBB — ANNAPOLIS -- The Court of Special Appeals upheld yesterday Maryland's drug kingpin law, which sets stiff mandatory prison terms for organizers of large drug distribution rings.
Rejecting arguments that the law is too vague and broad, the state's intermediate appellate court affirmed the conviction of Ricky R. Williams, a New York drug dealer snared in March 1990 during a state police sting in Salisbury.
Williams' appeal was the first challenge to the 1989 statute. But the final word on the law likely will come from the Court of Appeals.
Thomas C. Hill, the Washington lawyer who represented Williams, said yesterday he "may very well" seek the review from Maryland's highest court after he has read the lower court's opinion.
"As a case of first impression, it may be something the Court of Appeals might want to take a look at," said Gary Bair, chief of the attorney general's appellate division.
Williams was arrested March 31 after he accepted $34,000 from two undercover state troopers for a kilogram of cocaine.
He was convicted under the kingpin law, enacted in a state crackdown on drug crime, and sentenced to 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
Wicomico County Circuit Judge D. William Simpson also fined Williams $10,000.
The drug deal had been arranged by Williams' brother, Gary Williams, the original target of the probe.
Police identified Gary Williams as the head of a Salisbury drug ring. They testified that after they twice bought drugs from him he proposed selling them 2 kilograms of cocaine for money, marijuana and guns.
After repeated negotiations, Ricky Williams delivered the cocaine from New York and was arrested in front of a phony pawn shop and used-furniture store police had set up to investigate fencing operations.
In his appeal, Ricky Williams argued that Maryland's law does not sufficiently explain terms such as "organizer, supervisor, financier or manager" of a drug ring, leaving defendants in the dark as to what the law forbids. But the court ruled that the terms are "common ones, their meanings easily ascertained and understood." The judges even included a dictionary definition of manager.
Ricky Williams also claimed that the law is too broad because it could include subordinates in an organization, reaching further than the legislature had intended.
But the court found that legislative leaders had eliminated more narrow language when they drafted the bill, suggesting that the "statute's broad reach reflects the legislature's deliberate intent."
The court also dismissed Williams' claim that he was merely a courier for his brother and should not be prosecuted under the tougher law.