Federal authorities used the testimony of a Nigerian drug dealer yesterday to further their attempts to have Linwood Rudolph Williams, one of Baltimore's major narcotics figures, sentenced to life in prison.
The testimony of Robinson "Robin" Agboyi, 38, came at the beginning of sentencing hearings for Williams and three co-defendants in U.S. District Court. All four were convicted last March of federal drug conspiracy charges.
But Agboyi had no part in helping the government obtain those convictions. In fact, he was not in federal custody until well after Williams and his co-defendants went to court in December 1990, and he did not testify in the case during the four-month trial that followed.
Still, prosecutors pursued him for the crucial testimony he could provide regarding international heroin deals involving Williams.
Agboyi was arrested in Nairobi, Kenya, and brought to the United States early last year. He reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to a drug conspiracy charge and to testify for the government in exchange for a 15-year prison sentence.
Yesterday, Agboyi admitted to having funneled Pakistani heroin through Nigeria and into the United States. He said he first met Williams -- a Baltimore trafficker with a long history of arrests for drug dealing, weapons charges and murder -- in August 1987, when another drug-dealing acquaintance introduced them. The meeting took place in Nairobi and concerned Williams' interest in buying 2 kilograms of heroin for $50,000, Agboyi testified.
"I did not sell any to him because I didn't have any heroin with me at that time," Agboyi said yesterday. To make up for the inconvenience, Agboyi said, he paid Williams' travel expenses of more than $14,000.
Less than a month later, Agboyi testified, he shipped a kilogram of heroin through his connections to Williams and another 2 kilograms of heroin in December 1987. Agboyi also said that on two occasions his brother and another man met Williams to get paid for the drug shipments and that Williams "told them where to pick up the money."
Because federal sentencing guidelines determine punishment based on the amount of drugs involved in a case, prosecutors are trying to use Agboyi's testimony to prove Williams dealt in massive quantities of heroin. Prosecutors also contend that Williams lied during a pre-sentencing hearing at which he said he had never been to Africa.
Williams' defense attorneys, Bill Purpura and Luther West, countered Agboyi's allegations by calling members of Williams' family, all of whom testified that during August 1987 Williams was in Baltimore for a birthday party and at the time of his father's death.
But Katherine J. Armentrout, one of three prosecutors handling the case, pointed out that Williams' family could not account for his whereabouts during the first week of August, when Agboyi said he picked up hotel receipts documenting Williams' visit.
Jim Kraft, who is representing one of Williams' co-defendants, argued that there was no way anyone could believe Agboyi's testimony.
"All he can tell you is what he knows will be convenient to him in this case," Mr. Kraft said of Agboyi, who has a prior drug conviction in England. "He didn't know where his money was coming from. He didn't know how he was getting paid. It just doesn't make sense. He's just not a credible witness."
But Judge Frank A. Kaufman said he had no problem believing Agboyi's account.
"I don't find it incredible that someone would pay $14,000 under these circumstances," the judge said. "I have no question but that each and every one of the four defendants here today dealt in heroin. I have no doubt [Williams] concocted a series of lies."
Williams' sentencing hearing is scheduled to continue Tuesday.