Kofi Orleans-Lindsay, a drug dealer serving a sentence of life without parole for the killing of a Maryland state trooper, filed a motion yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington that seeks to withdraw his guilty plea.
The 24-year-old prisoner, from Silver Spring, filed a handwritten motion with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly saying that his attorneys failed to provide him with a competent defense. He said they misled him into a plea bargain that spared him a possible death sentence but will leave him behind bars for the rest of his life.
"Counsel, upon starting the case, insisted that I plead guilty to the charges before any type of work had been done, which shows that he had a preconceived notion that he thought I was guilty," Orleans-Lindsay wrote in neat script.
Only the first page of the motion was filed with the court clerk yesterday, and it was not immediately clear which attorney he meant to indicate. At least four lawyers worked on his defense after he was arrested in the Oct. 30, 2000, shooting of undercover narcotics officer Edward M. Toatley.
Neither Billy L. Ponds, one of the first defense attorneys involved, nor Jeffrey B. O'Toole Jr., his current court-appointed attorney, returned calls yesterday.
Channing D. Phillips, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said prosecutors had not seen the motion.
"While I can't respond to the specifics, I can say that the motion will be vehemently opposed by the U.S. attorney's office," Phillips said.
Orleans-Lindsay, a native of Ghana who had a previous drug conviction, pleaded guilty in December 2001 to killing Toatley, 37, during an undercover drug sting in Northeast Washington. When he pleaded guilty, he provided details of the slaying to the judge, saying, "I was just carrying out what I decided to do."
Prosecutors said that a video camera inside Toatley's unmarked Toyota 4Runner captured much of what happened the night of the slaying.
They gave this account:
Orleans-Lindsay got into the vehicle and took $3,500 in cash in what was supposed to be a crack cocaine deal. He then left the vehicle and pretended to pick up a stash of drugs but returned instead with a semiautomatic pistol and shot Toatley in the head. He fled, setting off a two-week nationwide search before he was arrested in New York.
Prosecutors said they tied him to the killing through a volume of evidence, including the videotape, a cigarette butt left in Toatley's vehicle, the gun used in the slaying, the bullet slug and the casing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn L. Kirschner said in court that the physical evidence contained so much of Orleans-Lindsay's DNA that the odds of the killer being someone else were 570 quadrillion to one.