Death sentence is sought for Jones Prosecutor says jail won't stop drug lord from killing again

Defense requests leniency

May 29, 1998|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Saying that prison probably would not stop Anthony Ayeni Jones from ordering contract murder, federal prosecutors asked jurors yesterday to sentence the convicted East Baltimore drug lord and killer to death.

"Jones has demonstrated that prison is not an impediment to him," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie M. Bennett said at Jones' death penalty hearing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. "There are people who stand ready to carry out his orders to kill."

Jones, 25, was convicted Wednesday after a six-week trial of running a $30,000-a-day cocaine and heroin organization that killed more than a dozen people, some of whom he ordered executed while he was in federal prison awaiting trial. A jury took about 11 hours to convict Jones on charges that included murder in aid of racketeering, kidnapping, attempted murder, retaliating against federal witnesses and drug distribution. Seventeen of his lieutenants have been convicted.

While Jones' lawyers sought leniency, describing him as a casualty of foster homelife, a tough urban landscape and out-of-town drug dealers, Bennett pointed to the executions Jones ordered from jail as examples of his long arm of influence and continuing threat. Jones gave the death orders to loyal followers by prison telephone, using coded street slang he thought federal agents would be unable to decipher.

Jones' "fergie-dergie" code, so-called because most words in it end in "ergie," was cracked by Bennett after she studied hours of tape-recorded conversations. She said he'd likely try such tactics to order murder again.

"No one is going to be able to monitor his telephone calls and mail on a daily basis for the rest of his life. No one will be available to simultaneously translate if he uses this code or develops another," Bennett said. "Life in prison without parole is not enough to deter future crimes."

No emotion

Jones, who would be the first person executed for a federal fTC crime committed in Maryland, sat expressionless at the defense table throughout the day, dressed in a stylish brown suit.

His attorneys told the jury of nine women and three men to take pity on Jones, whom they described as a foster child who struggled to grow up in the violent drug world of East Baltimore.

"Life for a young man there is much tougher than any of us can imagine," said Harry J. Trainor Jr. "They don't consider themselves dressed in the morning unless they're strapped with a 9 mm [gun]."

Trainor said Jones' parents came to America from Nigeria in the late 1950s. His father, Rufus Ayeni, was highly educated, having earned a doctorate in psychology from Indiana University and been a professor at Alcorn State University in Mississippi, Trainor said.

Family problems

But problems developed in the family, and Jones and his three older siblings were put into foster care with different families, Trainor said.

His foster parents, Ruth and Charlie Jones, later became his adoptive parents. The family lived in the 1700 block of E. Oliver St. in East Baltimore, where Anthony Jones was raised from a young age.

By the mid-1980s, Trainor said, New York drug dealers were taking over East Baltimore neighborhoods. One day, a New York dealer named Rico drove by Anthony Jones -- then 16 -- and recruited him as a street-level drug runner, Trainor said.

"He said, 'C'mere, kid,' " Trainor told the jury. "The next day Anthony had a shopping bag full of cocaine."

Growing up

Trainor told the jury that the choices for violence that Anthony Jones has made throughout his adult life are at least partly due to the environment he grew up in.

Anthony Jones' three older siblings, he said, grew up in more stable surroundings and are productive people -- his brother plays football at the University of Hawaii, a sister is a psychology student at Towson University, and another sister is a part-time psychiatric nurse in Baltimore.

"I'm not excusing what Anthony Jones has done. I don't think he understands the concepts of mercy and compassion that I am asking you to show," Trainor told the jury. "But we're asking that you show him what mercy is."

The jury also heard yesterday from a clinical psychologist, Mark D. Cunningham, who testified for the defense on the effect prisons have on violent criminals.

Dangerous federal offenders, he said, often end up in the maximum-security prison in Florence, Colo., where former mob boss John Gotti and Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski are being held. Jones, if he is not sentenced to death, would spend the rest of his life there.

The institution houses inmates in 7-foot-by-12-foot cells for 23 hours a day and does not allow physical contact with outside visitors, Cunningham said.

Jurors will hear testimony into next week before deliberating on whether to sentence Jones to death or life without possibility of parole.

Pub Date: 5/29/98

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