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Drug Dealer Sentenced to 25 Years

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By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 6, 2009

A federal judge yesterday sentenced a convicted drug dealer to 25 years in prison for "spreading poison" on D.C. streets.

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James Becton of District Heights was convicted in September of conspiring to distribute crack and powder cocaine. Federal prosecutors said Becton and his gang, which included family members, controlled drug sales in the 4200 and 4300 blocks of Fourth Street SE for a seven-year period that ended with his arrest in 2007.

Becton, who grew up in the Fourth Street area, "is a violent drug dealer who has not hesitated to use violence to further his criminal enterprise," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Arvind K. Lal and Matthew P. Cohen wrote in court papers.

They wrote that Becton was charged, but not convicted, in four homicides and often resorted to violence to control his turf. In 2002, Becton shot and wounded a man in the Fourth Street area who he thought was selling crack supplied by another dealer, prosecutors said.

Becton, 34, was the only member of the organization to go to trial. Fourteen others, including his 32-year-old brother, Willie Best, pleaded guilty to drug charges. Best was sentenced to 13 years in prison. One man remains a fugitive, prosecutors said.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson said that Becton is a danger to the community and that a 25-year sentence would keep him off the streets until he is no longer a danger. Prosecutors had sought a life sentence.

Becton's attorney, Edward Sussman, sought a sentence closer to what Best received, saying Becton was not a major trafficker. "He was a small-time drug dealer who carved out a small niche," Sussman told Robertson.

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