Two More Sentenced In Contract Slaying

Both Fear Retaliation Because Of Their Cooperation In Case

July 10, 2009|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

Two more young Baltimore men were sentenced to decades in federal prison Thursday for their roles in the 2007 contract killing of murder witness Carl Lackl, who was shot repeatedly in front of his Baltimore County home.

Marcus Pearson, who was paid to mastermind the murder, was sentenced to 35 years in a plea agreement. Ronald Williams, who provided a gun to the teenage shooter and drove him to Lackl's home, received 25 years.

Each had faced potential life terms, though U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett accepted a recommendation for the lower sentencing ranges based on the defendants' "substantial cooperation" with prosecutors.

That same cooperation has now made them vulnerable to revenge.

According to their attorneys, Pearson, 28, has requested that he be sent to a prison "as far away from Maryland as possible" and Williams, 23, feels he is "a marked man" because he testified against gang members. Half of the eight defendants convicted in the murder, including Pearson, belong to the Bloods.

The case highlighted problems within Baltimore and the state's correctional system. Testimony described gangs and drug dealers controlling many city streets and the routine traffic of contraband within jails, including smuggled cellular phones.

That was how Patrick Byers Jr., who was sentenced to four consecutive life terms after a jury trial, ordered Lackl's death to prevent the 38-year-old father from testifying against him. The hit underscores the most vexing problem of all: attacks on witnesses.

Lackl "showed incredible courage doing the right thing," Bennett said. "That's what makes this more tragic: His courage is somehow lost in all this."

Williams appeared at his afternoon hearing in a wheelchair, with a bandage over his left eye. His lawyer said Pearson, his longtime friend, had attacked him Wednesday night after they were housed on the same floor.

Williams apologized to Lackl's mother and asked the court for forgiveness. His mother asked for mercy.

Pearson said little during the hearing, answering questions quietly with one or two words. No one showed up to support him, and he declined to make a statement.

Pearson spent hours on the stand during Byers' trial, reluctantly recounting his role in arranging the murder-for-hire plot, as well as outlining who did what.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Purcell said he likely could have convicted Byers and accomplice Frank Goodman without Pearson's help. But he might never have known about some of the others without Pearson's "assistance," which also led to the reduced 35-year-sentence.

Bennett told Pearson he was "very lucky." The judge had been prepared to make sure Pearson never saw the "light of day again."

"There still is a 'stop snitching' mentality in the streets of this metropolitan area," Bennett said. "Those who come before me who have not cooperated receive much tougher treatment."

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