Rhozier T. (Roach) Brown, a convicted murderer turned writer, activist and television news producer whose life sentence was commuted by President Gerald Ford 12 years ago, was sentenced yesterday to two consecutive five-year terms for selling cocaine and embezzling from a charity.
Brown, 43, described himself before U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell as an ex-con who squandered his good fortune because of a cocaine habit.
In a rambling 20-minute statement to the judge, Brown rattled off the ills of drug addiction, claiming that it destroyed his life. Helping others with a drug habit came easily, Brown said, but to do it for himself was nearly impossible.
"That's the hardest thing to do, say, 'Help me. Help me,' " he said. While leading his double life, he said he felt like a hypocrite.
"I was supposed to be a role model, so to speak, and here I was down."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Adelman, however, discounted Brown's claims of addiction and characterized him as a fast-talker who, once again, was trying to "get over" on the criminal justice system.
"If Mr. Brown isn't a criminal, who is?" Adelman said.
With his sentencing order, Gesell recommended that Brown, who pleaded guilty in September to the drug and embezzling charges, be placed in a prison where drug treatment is available. He also ordered Brown to pay restitution of the full amount -- $45,000 -- that he siphoned from the investment fund of the Hillcrest Children's Center, a Washington charity.
Brown also faces seven years of backup time, the period remaining on a special 19-year parole term imposed by Ford.
Brown was sentenced in 1965 along with two other men to 20 years to life in prison for a 1964 ambush murder and robbery he committed while a heroin addict. The commutation of his sentence came after he formed a widely acclaimed drama troupe at the Lorton Reformatory. He also was a producer of a black television news program at the time of Ford's action.
An advocate of restitution as an alternative to incarceration, Brown also counseled other convicts and was involved in many other community activities, including anti-drug efforts.
Jeffrey S. Jacobovitz, Brown's attorney on the drug charge, asked Gesell to consider Brown's record of community involvement and the good he had brought to others.
Gesell, however, reminded them that Brown had been rewarded once, with the extraordinary commutation of his life sentence, and had apparently not taken full advantage of the opportunity.
"Praise," the judge said. "He's got that. He's had that in his pocket . . . . he's gotten his credit for his civic duty."
Adelman said that Brown's meeting with undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent Emile Manara on April 3 was the culmination of a series of negotiating sessions that would indicate that Brown was in full control of his faculties and skilled in the methods of the sophisticated drug dealer.
Brown sold more than a half-pound of cocaine to Manara for $10,000 and boasted of his ability to deliver much more, Adelman said. He also said that Brown's ability to fashion the sophisticated embezzlement scheme, in which he posed as the director of Hillcrest, set up a bank account and persuaded a local investment group to transfer funds into the account, jibed more with the actions of a calculating criminal than an addict.
"If anybody knew the system, it was Mr. Brown. If anybody knew the consequences, it was Mr. Brown," Adelman said.