U.S. jury acquits city man in 2001 shooting blamed on drug ring

March 26, 2003|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

A federal jury acquitted an East Baltimore man yesterday in connection with a 2001 revenge shooting, one of dozens blamed on a violent city drug ring that authorities say was responsible for five homicides, including the shooting of one young woman at a "Rest in Peace" party thrown to remember a rival gang member.

Elijah Richardson, 24, was one of 12 men charged in U.S. District Court in Baltimore with narcotics and weapons counts related to their alleged roles with the so-called Hot Boys gang. Richardson was the only defendant to stand trial. Each of the other defendants entered guilty pleas.

Jurors in Richardson's case deliberated about six hours over two days before finding him not guilty of conspiracy to distribute narcotics and a related charge of possessing a firearm in connection with drug trafficking. Richardson was released from custody and went home with family members, defense attorney J. David Ash said.

"We were very pleased with the verdict," Ash said. "He was thrilled. The system worked."

Richardson was described by prosecutors as a minor player in the Hot Boys ring, also known as the Lafayette Project Boys. He was accused of participating in the Jan. 9, 2001, shooting of gang rival Perry Bowles, who suffered 10 bullet wounds but survived the attack.

Prosecutors did not offer physical proof that Richardson shot Bowles, but they argued that his association with the gang and his presence at the attack made him guilty of conspiracy. Ash countered that authorities never conclusively linked his client to the gang or the shooting.

Richardson and the 11 other defendants had been charged in a 23-count indictment that gave a stark account of how the Hot Boys gained respect and intimidated others in the drug trade by gunning down rivals, including Keith "Bones" Hamlet.

A "Rest in Peace" party thrown to remember Hamlet during Memorial Day weekend in 2001 ended with gunfire from members of the Hot Boys gang, wounding 11 people and killing Lakeisha Monich Moten, 24, the girlfriend of one of the leaders of the rival gang known as the North Avenue/Harford Road Boys.

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