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Press Release

Federal Appellate Court Affirms Convictions And Sentences Of Murder-For-Hire Conspirators

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania

SCRANTON—The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld the convictions and lengthy prison sentences of two men who participated in a murder-for-hire scheme in the Scranton area in 2011-2012.  

According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, the Court in separate decisions affirmed the convictions and sentences of Gary Williams, age 48, formerly of Scranton, and Edward McLaughlin, age 67, who previously resided in Florida.

The scheme involved McLaughlin soliciting Williams to kill McLaughlin’s ex-wife, and shipping a rifle and bullets from Florida to Scranton for Williams to use to carry out the murder. The plan unraveled when Williams was arrested by Scranton Police in a domestic violence incident in which he used the rifle to assault a woman with whom he resided.  Police and FBI agents subsequently found the rifle and other evidence linking Williams and McLaughlin to the murder-for-hire scheme.

Williams was convicted, after a three-day trial in August 2013, of conspiracy to commit a murder-for-hire, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, unlawful receipt of a firearm in interstate commerce, unlawful possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, and attempting to corruptly persuade a witness to influence testimony in an official proceeding.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo sentenced Williams to 35 years in prison.

On appeal, Williams contended that the trial court improperly admitted certain evidence in the case and incorrectly applied the sentencing guidelines. The Court of Appeals rejected those arguments, ruling that the evidence was properly admitted and the applicable sentencing guidelines were accurately calculated.

On the day of his scheduled trial, McLaughlin pleaded guilty to the murder-for-hire conspiracy, carrying and possessing a firearm in connection with a crime of violence, and unlawfully shipping a firearm as a convicted felon. He subsequently attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, but Judge Caputo ruled that the guilty plea was entered knowingly and voluntarily.

Judge Caputo sentenced McLaughlin to 20 years in prison.

On appeal, McLaughlin claimed that the court erred in refusing to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea because his counsel was ineffective and the government induced his plea with a false promise. The Court of Appeals rejected McLaughlin’s claims, ruling that his guilty plea was knowing and voluntary, and that McLaughlin failed to show the existence of any false promise by the government.

Williams and McLaughlin were indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2012, as a result of an investigation by the FBI and Scranton Police.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis P. Sempa prosecuted the cases and handled the appeals.


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Updated April 25, 2016