A federal jury found two leaders of an upstart Baltimore gang guilty of murder and drug dealing yesterday, the first convictions indirectly tied to the death of Northern High School's star quarterback Rocco Colavito Cash.
Marshawn D. Stokes and Ahmad S. Linton, alleged leaders of what prosecutors called a small but vicious drug circle, were convicted of chasing down Anthony Hamilton, a rival gang member, and killing him as they stood over him in a Southeast Baltimore alley in August 1997.
The 18-year-old quarterback was killed in the same area later that day when a gang member mistook him for a rival enforcer and shot him from a passing car, prosecutors said in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. An evidence technician testified during Stokes' and Linton's seven-week trial that shell casings found where Cash was killed matched the bullet that killed Hamilton.
Indictments of more than a dozen others are still pending in the killings.
Stokes and Linton, and two other alleged gang members from Baltimore, Cornell A. Williams and Antwan Askia, also were found guilty of conspiring to sell drugs.
Stokes and Linton are facing mandatory life sentences in the murder conviction. All four face 30 years to life for the drug charges. Stokes and Linton will be sentenced September 10, Williams and Askia on October 22. Both Stokes' and Linton's attorneys said they would appeal.
While the jury found Stokes and Linton innocent of conspiring as leaders of an organization to kill members of a rival organization, federal prosecutors said they were happy with the verdict.
"It wouldn't have made any difference in the sentence," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Harding, who prosecuted the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Tarra DeShields.
The case took a difficult turn for the prosecution when several witnesses hesitated to testify, some to the point where Harding and DeShields had to send FBI agents to find them and bring them to court.
"The defendants took to intimidating and even trying to kill some of our witnesses," Harding said. "We even have letters the defendants wrote to our witnesses telling them they shouldn't testify. [The witnesses] were scared to death."
Defense attorneys denied the charge.
In his closing arguments, Stokes' attorney, Jack Rubin, said it was not possible that Stokes was the leader of an organization.
"Mr. Stokes engaged in sporadic drug dealing; yes he did," Rubin said. "But he is no more the leader of an enterprise than I am Superman."
Pub Date: 7/24/99