Still proclaiming his innocence, the lone surviving shooter in the triple murder at Colonel Brooks' Tavern was sentenced yesterday to 75 years in prison for his role in the deadly 2003 robbery in Northeast Washington.
Rodman Durham, 30, will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison, and D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert I. Richter said he saw little reason for leniency.
Unlike the two other men charged in the case, Durham has never taken responsibility for his role in the grisly slayings, the judge said.
Although the others pleaded guilty to murder charges, Durham went to trial, contradicting incriminating statements he made after his arrest and denying that he was even present during the April 2003 robbery.
During the holdup, three employees, all of them preparing for Sunday brunch, were killed execution-style after one of them recognized the ringleader as a former cook at the Brookland eatery.
Standing before the judge yesterday, Durham, of Baltimore, expressed his condolences to the victims' families but once again denied any role in the killings.
"I am an innocent man," he said. "That is my position."
At trial, Durham's attorney argued that the other men had lied, implicating Durham in an effort to help themselves with the authorities.
When it was his time to speak yesterday, Richter was unequivocal in his rebuttal.
"There is no room for doubt as to Mr. Durham's guilt in these crimes," the judge said.
The killings stunned the city. The man behind them was David A. Wright, who had been fired in July 2002 from his job as a cook, according to prosecutors. He enlisted three other men, including a cousin, in a bid to rob his old employer, and on the morning of April 6, 2003, they set out with guns and masks.
But the holdup, which netted about $3,000, did not go as planned. Neomi Payne, 48, a cook, recognized Wright, who had not properly fitted his mask. Wright then decided that she and the other employees had to be killed, prosecutors said.
Joshua Greenberg, 34, the restaurant's chef, and Rodney Barnes, 47, a dishwasher, were shot dead by Wright, according to prosecutors. They said Payne was the last to be killed, shot by Durham and Wright.
Carlos Wilcox, an assistant manager, had been upstairs counting money when he saw the masked robbers approaching the building. Ducking out a door, onto a roof landing, he was able to escape as the terror unfolded below.
For almost a year, the case remained unsolved, until an anonymous tip gave investigators their first solid lead. In January 2004, Durham and two other suspects, Tyree Bunn and Joel Smith, were arrested. Wright, the man believed to have been the ringleader, was unwilling to surrender. With the police closing in on him near Richmond, he killed himself.
Durham's sentencing brings the case one step closer to an end. Bunn was sentenced in June to 24 years in prison. Smith's sentencing was supposed to be this week, but it was postponed until Sept. 29.
Outside the courthouse, the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Sines, said Durham deserved every year he got.
"I'm glad he's going to remain in jail for the rest of his life," she said.