Defiant till the end, Linwood R. "Rudy" Williams, whose criminal career spanned two decades and included acquittals that left police and prosecutors frustrated and angry, was sentenced yesterday in federal court to life without parole plus 130 years.
"If I've ever seen a case that requires a life sentence, this is it," said Judge Frank A. Kaufman. "I don't see how much further society can go."
Indeed, Williams, 36, received the maximum sentence on all eight charges for which he was convicted last March, after a complex four-month trial. The life sentence was for drug conspiracy, a charge that netted his co-defendant, Sean Wilson, 15 years and 8 months.
That Williams' conviction so far exceeds that of his co-defendant is an indication of how the government and Judge Kaufman viewed his role in the drug organization. He was accused of seeing himself as a modern-day folk hero, who gave out autographs and frustrated law enforcement authorities by winning acquittals in murder cases, drug cases and a handgun case.
In addition to conspiracy, he also was convicted of drug and firearms possession charges and of money laundering. Though he was not convicted of being a drug kingpin or of running a continuing criminal enterprise, trial evidence painted Williams as a ruthless and violent drug lord.
"He insulated himself very carefully, like a corporate executive," said Katherine J. Armentrout, the lead prosecutor. "Year after year after year this man poured heroin onto the streets of Baltimore. . . . He was vicious in the drugs that he dealt, violent in the methods that he used and he was totally corrupt."
Prosecutors argued that between 1986 and 1990, Williams' organization became one of the prime distributors of heroin in Baltimore and that Williams used any means necessary to avoid prosecution.
One of Williams' former underlings, Donald Nelson, testified during the trial that he lied for Williams in a state narcotics case that ended with Williams' acquittal. That case spawned a state investigation of Williams in the fall of 1988. Soon, federal authorities joined in.
By the time it was over in the spring of 1990, authorities had traced Williams' drug dealing activities from Baltimore to Nigeria. They had tapped his organization's cellular phones and planned an arrest sweep that netted more than $250,000, a kilogram of heroin, $25,000 worth of cocaine and several luxury cars.
At the time of Williams' arrest in April 1990, Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms, who lost the seemingly open-and-shut case in which Williams used perjured testimony, leaned against a seized, $65,000 Ferrari and said: "One thing about us, we don't go away."
Yesterday, in a courtroom filled with spectators, law enforcement officials, and Williams' family and friends, defense attorneys William Purpura and Luther West pointed to what they called the government's overzealousness in prosecuting their client.
But it was Williams who took the prosecutors and Judge Kaufman to task. His statement, read by Mr. West, began:
"To Your Lordship of this Great Star Chamber of Injustice . . . By no stretch of anyone's imagination did I receive a fair trial, nor an honest or decent one. . . . Because God has given me the sense, dignity and courage to decline the government's perverted plea bargain of 35 years and the strength to stand up to this persecution, your end has been from the very beginning to put me in prison for life. . . . We shall overcome, without a doubt, and in 1993, I'll be free."
Williams -- who sat quietly through the hearing, often blowing kisses to friends and family and giving the thumbs up sign -- told Judge Kaufman that he forgave him, then wished him and those in the audience a happy new year.
Judge Kaufman dismissed allegations that he had been unfair or was prejudiced against Williams.
"The record of the trial will speak for itself," he said.
But Judge Kaufman did focus on Williams' past, the many chances he had thrown away as he approached and then "crossed the Rubicon" separating society from lawlessness.
"The pity of it is that Mr. Linwood Rudolph Williams has tremendous ability. He has tremendous brain power, organizational ability and he has charisma, but he has used it, unfortunately, all in the wrong way," said Judge Kaufman. "He has made himself into some sort of modern folk hero."