A D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday sentenced another one of the eight persons convicted of murdering Catherine Fuller to life in prison, after he angrily described how the young man had robbed and kicked another woman during an earlier robbery attempt not far from the alley where Fuller was pummeled to death.
"One could substitute the name of that lady" with Fuller's name, Judge Robert M. Scott sternly told 20-year-old Steven L. Webb as he sentenced him, denying a motion to consider sentencing Webb under a federal youth act that could have made him eligible for a lesser prison term.
"He doesn't have any remorse . . . . He said he didn't do it," Scott said of Webb as he spurned a plea for leniency by Steven Kiersh, Webb's lawyer.
A trembling Webb, at times unable to speak and twice collapsing into his chair, told Scott he did not kill Fuller.
"I'm going to say I didn't do it and I'm going to keep saying it. I had nothing to do with this," said Webb. "No matter I've been found guilty . . . Well, I'm just going to say I really do feel sorry for what happened to that lady . . . and I feel sorry for the lady's family."
Webb, wearing the same brown suit he had worn throughout his trial, had tears in his eyes and bowed his head as Scott pronounced the sentence that will see him imprisoned for at least 35 years. Webb is the second person convicted of Fuller's death to be sentenced by Scott. Both were given the maximum penalty.
A jury in December convicted Webb and seven others of first-degree murder, kidnaping and armed robbery in the Oct. 1, 1984, beating death of Fuller, a tiny, 48-year-old Northeast woman who was attacked while shopping, dragged into an alley and repeatedly assaulted as a group of young persons attempted to steal her coin purse.
Webb "participated in one of the most heinous crimes the District of Columbia has ever seen," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry S. Goren as he urged Scott to give Webb the maximum sentence of 35 years to life. Not only did Webb need to be punished, Goren said, but there is a "need to deter others . . . others who participate in street robberies."
During the two-month trial, three witnesses identified Webb as a participant in Fuller's slaying, and one of the witnesses testified that Webb held one of Fuller's legs while a pole was thrust into her rectum.
Webb did not take the stand during the trial but his lawyer presented a defense that maintained he did not commit the murder or robbery that took place near the busy commercial corridor at Eighth and H streets NE.
During yesterday's monologue that was often emotional and rambling, Webb disputed details about his criminal record as a juvenile that Scott unsealed and read to the court. Contrary to the police report, Webb denied admitting that he and about five other youths tried to steal a woman's purse in the 1300 block of H Street NE on March 1, 1983, and then repeatedly kicked the woman when she fell to the ground.
Then, leaning against the defense table for support and blinking rapidly, Webb described a restless young life of having difficulties keeping a job, academic problems that led to his dropping out of school and fathering a child.
"I wasn't doing everything right . . . . In some of the classes I took I was so active . . . . I was so happy to be free," said Webb.
When the sentence was pronounced, Webb's mother cried while detectives assigned to the case congratulated Fuller's sister, Barbara Wade.
Outside the courtroom, Barbara Wade said of the young men who killed her sister: "In the end they have torn up families. Steven Webb tore up my family. Now he has torn his own family apart."