Pr. George's Ex-Official Convicted In Shooting
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
A jury yesterday rejected a former Prince George's County homeland security official's claim that he acted in self-defense when he opened fire on two unarmed furniture deliverymen, finding him guilty of involuntary manslaughter and other crimes in the shooting at his home in Accokeek last year.
The outcome was a stunning defeat for Keith A. Washington, a former county police corporal and onetime political ally of County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D). With little conclusive physical evidence, the trial pitted Washington's credibility against that of the surviving deliveryman, who said Washington attacked without provocation.
"It certainly demonstrates that anybody can be held accountable, no matter how high an official they may be," State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said at a news conference outside Circuit Court in Upper Marlboro.
Washington, 46, was acquitted of the most serious charges he faced -- second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder -- but was convicted of two counts of using a handgun in a crime of violence, each of which carries a five-year minimum sentence, and two counts of first-degree assault.
Marilynn Clark, the mother of the man who was killed, told reporters she was gratified by the outcome. "I don't understand all those second-degree, first-degree murder" charges, she said. "I just know my son is dead, so I just look for him to get locked up."
Washington did not react visibly as the jury foreman announced the verdict, which was reached after more than 11 hours of deliberations over two days. As he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs, Washington looked over one shoulder and mouthed, "I love you," to his wife, Stacey, who was seated in the front row. She appeared to mouth, "I love you," back.
Stacey Washington did not respond to reporters' questions as she left the courthouse. Vincent H. Cohen Jr., one of Washington's attorneys, said, "We're disappointed with the verdict."
During the trial, Washington testified that he fired blindly Jan. 24, 2007, as the two much-larger men attacked him while delivering a set of Marlo Furniture bed rails. Robert White, 37, who was severely injured, testified that Washington fired without provocation after angrily ordering the men from his home. Brandon Clark, 22, died nine days after the shooting.
The case has drawn wide attention in part because of past abuse allegations against Washington and in part because of his ties to Johnson. Washington was a driver for Johnson during the 2002 campaign, and Johnson named him deputy director of homeland security two years later. The two are members of the same college fraternity, Omega Psi Phi.
After the shooting, Johnson distanced himself from his former ally. "We are not friends," he said at one point. He also said that he "never promoted" Washington, despite having given him the homeland security position.
After the verdict was announced, John Erzen, a spokesman for Johnson, said: "We don't have any comment. That's been decided by a court and a jury."
During the eight-day trial, Washington testified that he led the deliverymen upstairs to the master bedroom, then turned and saw Clark but not White. When he asked Clark where White was, Clark said, "I got him, Shorty; I got him," Washington testified.