By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 16, 2006
Corey A. Moore, the D.C. street legend who has slipped through the hands of prosecutors again and again, has survived another trial -- one that featured his half brother as the key government witness.
Moore, 30, was acquitted yesterday by a federal jury of drug, firearms and conspiracy charges -- clearing the way for his release after nearly two years of denying wrongdoing and awaiting trial.
"Thank you," a visibly relieved Moore said to jurors after the verdict was read. The decision came after a trial that stretched for more than two months. Family members embraced in the courtroom.
Moore famously stood trial four times for a 1994 slaying -- and four times the jury came back deadlocked, leading prosecutors to finally drop the murder charge. The string of prosecutorial failures led some authorities to dub Moore the "Teflon defendant." Over the years, Moore has been charged with three murders, assault with intent to kill, assault with a deadly weapon and armed robbery. Each charge was dismissed before trial or resulted in an acquittal.
Moore was convicted once, in 1996, of a weapons charge that netted him a 51-month prison term.
He had said that he was living a law-abiding life when authorities arrested him in August 2004, holding jobs as a youth counselor and car salesman. Prosecutors saw it differently: Moore, they said, had participated in a drug conspiracy with others for at least two years and helped supply crack cocaine and heroin.
Besides the drug charges, a grand jury indicted Moore for weapons violations after federal agents said they found a bag they described as an "assassin's tool kit" when searching his Northeast Washington home. The items included a .357 magnum, a ski mask and a glove.
Moore's attorney, Jonathan Zucker, said prosecutors had little evidence against his client and accused them of an effort to punish Moore for his alleged past sins.
Zucker said the only witness to testify that Moore was seen with drugs was his half brother, Andre Richardson. In closing arguments, Zucker told jurors that Richardson was lying to shave years off his sentence for carjacking and other crimes. Zucker also raised questions about whether the "assassin's kit" was Moore's.
The jury was not told about Moore's previous trials.
One of Moore's co-defendants, Timothy Thomas, was found guilty of drug and conspiracy charges. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth instructed jurors to continue deliberating on the fate of a third defendant, Frederick A. Miller.
Sitting in a courtroom wearing wire-rimmed glasses and a suit several sizes too big, Moore looked bookish, not like the person who prosecutors have said was once a teenage enforcer for the Condon Terrace Crew, a violent band of young men who lorded over a stretch of turf east of the Anacostia River. He did not testify.
After the verdict, Moore's wife, Holly Williams, said she hoped prosecutors would stop targeting her husband but added, "I think that may be naive.''
Throughout the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Julius Rothstein sought to portray Moore as a thug who tried to intimidate his brother into silence through emotional appeals and veiled threats.
Allegations of witness tampering and intimidation almost threw the trial in disarray, with Richardson at one point refusing to continue testifying because he said he feared for his safety. At issue was a number of telephone calls from family members in which they appeared to pressure Richardson to stop testifying against his brother.
Moore also sent his half brother a letter, introduced as evidence, that said by relying on informers, the "prison-industrial complex is a disguise for modern-day slavery." By participating, the letter added, "You will be an outcast, and may the curse of the ancestors be upon you if you take the poison to be exploited by the United States."
At the bottom of the letter was a quote: "Death B4 Dishonor."
Richardson testified that he understood the letter to be a threat. But faced with a 30-years-to-life sentence and hoping for a break by assisting the prosecution, he continued to testify.
Holly Williams said Richardson's testimony was hurtful. "It was just sad,'' she said. "But we pray for him.''