Md. man acquitted of murder but found guilty of obstruction,conspiracy in botched 2009 D.C. robbery

Correction: An early version of this story incorrectly reported that Arvel Crawford testified in the trial as part of an agreement with the government. There was no such agreement, and Crawford did not testify.

A D.C. Superior Court jury rendered a verdict Friday that a Hyattsville man was part of plan to rob an alleged drug dealer but rejected allegations that he was the plan’s mastermind and was responsible for the accidental shooting death of one of his friends and co-conspirators in the botched robbery.

The jury acquitted Raylen D. Wilkerson, 34, of felony first-degree murder and related charges in the shooting death of Arvel S. Alston, 40, on Dec. 1, 2009. Prosecutors said Alston, Wilkerson and four other men, including an on-duty D.C. police officer, plotted to hold up the alleged drug dealer in Southeast Washington. During the attempt, Alston was accidently shot to death by another robber — his son, Arvel Crawford, 20 — who was trying to shoot the intended victim.

Although the jury acquitted Wilkerson of murder, it found him guilty of conspiracy, obstruction and tampering with evidence.

Four suspects pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges related to the shooting and robbery, but Wilkerson refused to accept a plea deal, saying he was innocent and had not been aware of the robbery plan.

Prosecutors said Wilkerson, Crawford, Alston, former D.C. police officer Reginald Jones, 42, and Jarvis Clark, 20, and Rashun M. Parker, 29, both of Temple Hills, had devised a plan in Wilkerson’s Temple Hills auto accessory shop to rob and kidnap Tyrone Herring, 46. Authorities identified Herring as a drug dealer.

Wilkerson, prosecutors said, was the mastermind and was armed and sitting with Jones in Jones’s marked cruiser, where they were acting as lookouts, while the others descended on Herring in the 4200 block of Fourth Street SE.

Prosecutors also charged Wilkerson with ordering his wife to remove from their home items that Jones, Wilkerson’s cousin, had left there.

After accepting a plea deal, Jones, a six-year D.C. police veteran, was fired from the force. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Clark and Parker testified as part of an agreement with the government.

Outside the courtroom, Wilkerson’s attorneys, Kevin J. McCants and Sherlock Grigsby, celebrated their client’s exoneration on the murder charge.

“Justice was served,” McCants said.

Wilkerson is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of intern Chandra Levy.
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