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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

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U.S. Attorney Machen Says Recent Convictions
Demonstrate Success of Anti-Violence Strategy
- Community’s Efforts Cited on National Night Out -

     WASHINGTON - More than 50 defendants have been convicted in murder cases and more than 200 others have been convicted of weapons offenses so far this year, a reflection of a continuing commitment to target violent offenders by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, its many law enforcement partners, and the community, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said today.

     U.S. Attorney Machen cited the recent successes as he and others from the U.S. Attorney’s Office joined neighborhood residents in commemorating today’s 29th annual National Night Out. Various events, taking place in every police district in the District of Columbia, recognize that the community’s help – as witnesses and partners - is a critical factor in successful prosecutions.

     “Our success in holding violent criminals accountable is a direct result of courageous citizens willing to tell the truth about what they have seen to the police and to a jury,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Our community is safer because of their refusal to tolerate violence and criminality in their neighborhoods.”

     A total of 25 defendants have been found guilty so far this year following trials in murder cases, and another 32 have pled guilty to murder and related charges. They include: five men found guilty by a jury in May of murder, conspiracy and other charges for a series of crimes that culminated in the March 30, 2010 deadly mass shooting on South Capitol Street; Christian Taylor, who was found guilty by a jury in June in the murders of a father and son at a wholesale store in Northeast Washington, and Keith Littlepage, who was convicted last month in the brutal stabbing of an ex-girlfriend.

     So far this year, more than 40 defendants have been sentenced to prison terms of 20 or more years for murder and other offenses. They include: Weldon Gordon, who was sentenced to life in prison for the 2008 slaying of a government witness who was cooperating in an investigation into drug activities; Gregory Trotter and Ernest Pee Jr., who were sentenced to decades in prison for crimes including an armed robbery and murder in 2010 at a check-cashing store; Leon Truesdale, who was sentenced to 88 years in prison for a murder committed during a robbery in 2010, and Kwan Kearney, who was sentenced to a total of 105 years in prison for two murders that he committed within a six-day period in the fall of 2010, including one of a teenage honors student.

     Other violent offenders have been sentenced to significant prison time for their crimes, U.S. Attorney Machen noted, including Kevin Stoddard, who was sentenced to a 30-year term for a series of robberies against taxicab drivers, and Darrell Waynes, who was sentenced to 25 years for a series of burglaries.

     Working with the Metropolitan Police Department, the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and other law enforcement partners, veteran prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office have secured convictions against numerous members of gangs and crews.

     Over the past year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted over 100 members of violent gangs and narcotics distribution crews associated with various gangs, including MS-13, in the U.S. District Court and in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The prosecutions have resulted in the seizures of numerous weapons and quantities of narcotics.

     In June, for example, Mark Pray, the leader of a violent drug organization that operated in Barry Farm and other neighborhoods, was sentenced to life in prison plus 150 years for federal racketeering conspiracy, murder and other charges. One co-defendant in that case was sentenced to life in prison plus 55 years, and another co-defendant was sentenced to life in prison plus 35 years. In another case, four men were found guilty last month by a jury and two others pled guilty to charges stemming from shootings and other violence tied to disputes between crews that operated in the Benning Terrace area of Southeast Washington.

     In July, Espey Brown, Jr. was sentenced to 14 years and two months in prison on federal charges stemming from his role in a drug trafficking ring that operated near Seventh and O Streets NW and at other locations; he is among 12 people to plead guilty in that case. Also this year, in another case, Alberto Calderon was sentenced to a 16-year prison term on federal charges stemming from his role as the manager or supervisor of a ring that conspired to sell large quantities of crystal methamphetamine in the Washington, D.C. area. Five others have been sentenced to significant prison terms in that case. According to MPD estimates, the street values of the seized drugs in this case - intercepted before they made it to the area - included more than $13 million of methamphetamine, $118,000 of cocaine, and $49,500 of marijuana.

     Over the past two years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has targeted violent criminals with new initiatives, including the creation of separate teams of prosecutors to investigate older, cold-case homicides and gang-related crimes. In addition, a longtime prosecutor is leading the office’s work in the use of DNA and forensic evidence, providing expert assistance in current cases and coordinating efforts to identify new leads in older unsolved crimes, including sex offenses.

     Last month, for example, Shepardson Ray Blair was sentenced to 43 years of incarceration on charges stemming from the kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman in 2003; a DNA hit identified Blair as the suspect in 2010, and he was later convicted after a trial.

     The U.S. Attorney’s Office, MPD, the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, and other agencies have worked to prosecute individuals who are caught illegally carrying guns in the District of Columbia. Since January, more than 190 people have pled guilty in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to charges of carrying a pistol without a license or other firearms offenses, and another 19 were convicted after trials.

     The work taking place in the District of Columbia is tailored after a national anti-violence strategy created by Attorney General Eric Holder, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. The strategy uses a three-legged stool approach: one leg focuses on vigorous law enforcement; one invests in crime prevention programs, and one supports viable initiatives to help ex-offenders build new lives as law-abiding citizens in the community.

     “Our city has made tremendous progress reclaiming our streets from violent criminals over the past decade, but we cannot let up in this fight,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Too many of our neighbors still feel trapped inside by the crime outside their doors, and too many of our young people respond to petty slights with violence. Our community will continue to combat violence through prevention, intervention, and – when necessary – vigorous enforcement in the criminal justice system.”

     In hopes of helping ex-offenders make successful transitions back into the District of Columbia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has hosted or co-sponsored several events, including a program focusing on the needs of returning women. More than 100 women attended the session. Also this year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office co-hosted a forum to educate the business community about the benefits of hiring individuals returning from prison.

     All told, the office has organized and participated in more than 100 community events this year, including a youth summit in June that drew more than 250 teenagers. That program, at H.D. Woodson High School, featured talks by U.S. Attorney Machen and others about the importance of responsible decision-making, showing a dedication to academics, and making commitments to pursuing goals that will lead to lifetimes of success. Other events have focused on subjects such as domestic violence and elder abuse. Finally, in schools and community forums, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has stressed the need for people to come forward as witnesses.

     “National Night Out is a special opportunity for the whole community to stand up against crime, but we at the U.S. Attorney’s Office are in District neighborhoods and engaging with citizens every day,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “We believe that effective law enforcement requires a sincere and sustained dialogue with the people we serve about how we can together address our most pressing public safety challenges.”





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