City gang members get life sentences for killings

2 in Lexington Terrace Boys not eligible for parole

July 24, 2004|By Scott Waldman | Scott Waldman,SUN STAFF

A federal judge sentenced two Baltimore gang members yesterday to life in prison without parole for a series of drug-related homicides that began in 1999 and included the killing of one witness.

Michael L. Taylor, 20, and Keon D. Moses, 21, were members of the Lexington Terrace Boys, a violent gang named for the public housing where its members were raised.

A nearly four-month trial in U.S. District Court this year resulted in the convictions of Moses and Taylor on multiple charges - including murder and drug distribution - stemming from their efforts to establish territory in the city's drug trade.

The government presented evidence during the trial and at the sentencing of the defendants' participation in at least six killings that they have not been tried for. Federal prosecutors had sought the death penalty, but the jury rejected that sentence.

As U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake handed down four concurrent life sentences and a 10-year consecutive sentence to Moses, and two concurrent life sentences to Taylor, neither defendant displayed emotion.

In the background, crying, sat family members of the defendants as well as the victims. Some of the victims' family members wore T-shirts emblazoned with images of loved ones who had been killed.

The defendants, who saw each other as brothers and refused to testify against each other, waived their right to make a statement before the sentences were read.

"There's nothing to say," said Moses, who was known on the streets as "Black."

Defense attorneys said they were not surprised by yesterday's outcome. Moses' attorney, Arcangelo M. Tuminelli, said his client had prepared himself for the sentence.

"The fact is, under the law, the judge had no choice but to impose that sentence," Tuminelli said. This summer, he received the annual John Adams Award - given to defense lawyers for their work in difficult cases - for his defense of Moses.

Although federal prosecutors had asked for the death sentence in both cases, they seemed pleased by the sentences.

"One by one, we are dismantling the most violent drug gangs that threaten the safety of our communities," U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio said in a statement. "Life sentences as imposed by the court, without the possibility of parole under the federal prison system, ensure that these criminals stay off the streets."

Family and friends of the victims sat facing the defendants during the sentencing. Of those who spoke yesterday, all sought to find out why Moses and Taylor had taken part in such brutal killings.

Eleanor McCutchon tearfully begged Taylor to reveal the location of her son's body. Her son, Travis "Phat Harold" Burley, was last seen April 1, 2002, with Taylor. McCutchon, who said she has known Taylor since he was a baby, asked him to let her bury her son so that her family could move on.

"I just want you to give me back my Travis," she said to Taylor.

Although no one has been convicted of Burley's killing, authorities have linked Taylor, who was also known as "Mike Mumbles," to his disappearance. The two had a dispute over drugs and a gun Taylor is accused of using in a killing, according to authorities.

Before the sentencing began, Moses smiled and gestured to a young woman in the audience. The woman, who said she was a friend of Taylor's, whispered back: "I don't like you."

Moses' composure after the sentencing did not change. As he was being handcuffed, he told a tearful group of friends and family that he loved them.

"I'll write you tonight," Moses said.

As a handcuffed Taylor was led away to prison, friends and family called out that they loved him.

After the hearing, Taylor's uncle Norman Taylor expressed sympathy for the families of victims. But he said he did not feel justice had been served. He said more leniency should have been shown to the defendants because they grew up in difficult living conditions.

"The government should be responsible," he said. "It's like we were laboratory mice in the projects."

A third defendant in the trial, Aaron D. Foster, is scheduled to be sentenced next week.

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