Two men arrested last fall after police seized $2 million worth of cocaine and heroin from their Southwest Washington apartment pleaded guilty to drug charges yesterday just hours after one of the men surrendered to D.C. police vice officers.
Both men, Larry Blackwell, 35, of 11907 Autumn Wood La., Fort Washington, and Torrence D. Owens, 36, of 210 Seventh St. SE, jumped their routine $5,000 "station-house bonds" the day of their arrest, an incident that embarrassed police officials and brought renewed calls for changes in the bonding procedure.
Allan N. Palmer, the men's lawyer, said he had been contacted by them to negotiate their surrender and plea agreement shortly before Blackwell was captured in an Alexandria apartment on Nov. 25.
Owens remained free until about 10 a.m. yesterday when, accompanied by his lawyer, he surrendered to Seventh District vice officers who made the drug seizure.
"The fact that Owens was still a fugitive" was a major factor, Palmer said, in his ability to negotiate the plea agreement under which Blackwell and Owens pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gerhard Gesell to one count each of possession with intent to distribute more than a kilogram of cocaine.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Blackwell, who was on probation at the time of his arrest for submitting false information for a passport, also pleaded guilty to violating his probation and faces a possible additional sentence on that charge.
In return for the guilty pleas, the government dropped drug conspiracy charges against the men. There is no penalty for not meeting the requirements of a station-house bond, federal officials said.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office here said yesterday that the lack of a penalty and the ability of such major drug suspects to post a low bond were among the reasons changes in the procedures have been sought. However, none has taken place.
Officials discovered the cache of drugs in a fifth-floor apartment at 4660 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SW after maintenance workers at the building entered the unit to investigate reports of a water leak.
When they entered the apartment, the workers found it contained almost no furniture but that large amounts of drug paraphernalia and drugs were in evidence. Police obtained a search warrant for the apartment and later also searched a second-floor apartment in the building.
When the officers were returning to the fifth-floor unit, they saw Blackwell and Owens and arrested them.