A D.C. Superior Court jury yesterday acquitted five District men of first-degree murder in a drug-related 1986 slaying at the Mayfair apartment complex in far Northeast Washington, but convicted them of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and other charges.
Judge Reggie Walton revoked the bonds of three defendants who had been free on bail. "Maybe one day somebody will sell drugs to his child, and he'll see how it feels," Walton told a defense attorney, who had argued that his client just became a father. "There's a cancer eating up this city, and it's called drugs. And it's people like your client that is causing it."
The five men -- Ernest T. Minder, 24; James Cowan, 19; Tony Adams, 22; Gary Gordon, 21, and David Belton, 19 -- also were convicted of attempted cocaine distribution and assault with a deadly weapon. They face possible sentences of six years and eight months to 20 years. Cowan, who was convicted of an additional charge of carrying a pistol without a license, could be sentenced to an additional year.
All five men face first-degree murder charges in another 1986 slaying at the Mayfair complex -- the Nov. 20 killing of Anthony Knox, 33.
At the start of the trial four weeks ago, prosecutor Charles Cobb said the case represented a microcosm of the District's drug-related crime epidemic. He said the U.S. attorney's office had decided to attack a drug organization by charging each of the men with murder even though only one of the five could have carried out the shooting.
The apartment complex was well-known among narcotics officers as a clearing house for illegal drugs. Witnesses testified that the men -- dubbed "the Committee" by Cobb -- regularly earned more than $25,000 a day from the sale of $25 bags of crack, a powerful cocaine derivative.
The case stemmed from the Nov. 3, 1986, killing of Kevin Maxwell Dozier, 29, in the 3500 block of Hayes Street NE during what was described as a drug deal. Police said the slaying occurred near a crack house operated by the five men.
The defendants were identified by "street" names. Witnesses described Adams as "Fats," and Cobb told the jurors that Adams and Minder, known as "Erno," were the masterminds of the organization. "Erno brought the guns and the cocaine in, and Fats cooked the cocaine," said Cobb, referring to the process of preparing crack.
Cobb said that Belton, known as "Big Dave," and Gordon, identified as "Gooey," delivered the drugs and provided security. Cowan, known as "Wop," provided security and was one of two gunmen who shot Dozier, Cobb said.
Charles C. White, the jury foreman, said after the verdict that the jurors had trouble believing the testimony of Sammy Giles, a 17-year-old youth who pleaded guilty to two charges of second-degree murder and agreed to testify against his former friends. Giles testified that he was not alone in firing shots. White said there was not enough evidence to prove who fired the fatal shot.