Man given life term, no parole Sentence in drug case reflects killing of which defendant was acquitted

October 10, 1998|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

It's the kind of case that makes defense lawyers cringe.

In March, two lawyers persuaded a federal jury to acquit their client of murder in a killing committed to protect a bustling heroin and cocaine ring that was run from the Westport community in South Baltimore.

But, because he was convicted of heading the ring and because the killing was committed in furtherance of the drug conspiracy, Dwayne Holland, 35, was held accountable for the death of Antonio Woodson and was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

As Holland was led away in handcuffs -- his family waving from the wooden pews -- his attorneys hung their heads in the quiet courtroom and stared at the floor. After winning a key piece of their case before the jury, they were left to face the constraints of the complicated sentencing guidelines.

"The thing that gets me is, here you have a guy who's indicted for drug conspiracy and murder, and he's found not guilty of the murder, and he gets sentenced for the murder anyway," defense lawyer Charles G. Bernstein said. "Welcome to the wild and wacky world of sentencing guidelines."

Holland's other lawyer, Cyril V. Smith, said the jury's not-guilty verdict was undermined by the sentencing guidelines. He said he plans to appeal the life term and challenge the validity of the sentence.

The prosecutor and the judge in the case said Holland got what he deserved.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Clarke said yesterday that it was a "solemn day" because someone was about to begin a life sentence. But he called Holland a "violent man" who sold drugs to children in his community and shot Woodson because he tried to rob Holland's gang in 1993.

Clarke said Holland "deserves every day of the sentence of life in prison."

In court papers, U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis wrote that Holland was the leader of the violent ring, which he said was responsible for peddling more than 100 pounds of crack and more than 60 pounds of heroin from 1992 to last year.

Davis said he gave Holland a severe sentence in part because he was in "possession of a firearm during the murder of Antonio Woodson, which I find was in furtherance of the jointly undertaken criminal activity of the drug organization."

Two of Holland's associates -- Daniel Hill, 29, and Kevin Jones, 27 -- also received life sentences. Four other members of the ring received stiff prison terms. James Deberry, 28, got 30 years; Donnie Montgomery, 32, got 21 years; Duane Carroll, also 32, got 11 years; and Pirrie Coates, 31, got 10 years, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Before Holland was led away from the fifth-floor courtroom yesterday, the judge said, "Mr. Holland, you're exactly the kind of role model we can do without in this community, in this state and in this country. This is your day of reckoning."

Pub Date: 10/10/98

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