A U.S. District Court jury yesterday convicted three men of operating a criminal enterprise that used murder and intimidation to control drug sales in a Northeast Washington neighborhood.

Two other defendants, who prosecutors said also were members of the R Street Crew, were convicted of drug conspiracy and other charges.

The case, which took five months to try, has been watched by federal prosecutors and defense lawyers across the country because it was one of a few attempts, and the first in the District, to use sophisticated anti-racketeering laws against a suspected street drug gang.

Although the jurors acquitted all defendants of racketeering, defense lawyers said the prosecutors' strategy of using the law made it easier to include other crimes, such as murder, in the case and thus made their defense problems far more complex. As a practical matter, the racketeering acquittals had little effect because the jury voted to convict on the more serious offense of operating a continuing criminal enterprise.

"Today's verdict is a tremendous victory for the people of the District of Columbia," said U.S. Attorney Jay B. Stephens. "It demonstrates our unrelenting commitment to use the full arsenal of laws available to us to bring to justice drug kingpins who are responsible for much of the human devastation affecting this community."

From the start of the trial, prosecutors portrayed the R Street defendants as high-rolling drug dealers who built an organization complete with enforcers, drug processors, distributors, lieutenants and street runners. The organization operated between 1983 and 1991, conducting much of its business near the corner of Lincoln Road and R Street NE.

Various witnesses described lavish spending sprees on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif., high-speed chases in Mercedes-Benz sedans, three killings and an unsuccessful drive-by shooting attack on convicted drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III.

In addition to the continuing criminal enterprise counts, an offense that carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole, Kevin F. Williams-Davis, 28, Anthony T. Nugent, 27, and Darryl D. Williams, 24, were convicted of second-degree murder. Williams-Davis and Nugent also were convicted of six counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

Alba D. Restrepo, 46, and Joyce Boyd, 39, were convicted of conspiring to distribute drugs and other drug offenses. Those convictions carry mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years, although federal sentencing guidelines could increase that to at least 30 years.

Eighteen people have yet to be tried and one has pleaded guilty.

The jury announced its verdict after 10 days of deliberations. Merely reading the 28-page verdict took more than 30 minutes. Afterward, U.S. District Judge George Revercomb ordered the jurors to return tomorrow to decide whether the defendants must forfeit two houses, more than a dozen luxury cars and four-wheel-drive trucks and more than $60,000 in cash and bank deposits.

Outside the courthouse, Kenneth M. Robinson, who defended Nugent, seized on the racketeering acquittals to declare that "the jury concluded there was no R Street Crew, but that there have been incidents of drug dealing for a number of years."

The law, known as RICO for the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, was designed as a tool to fight traditional organized crime, but it has been used in public corruption cases as well as against drug gangs. To win a conviction under the law, prosecutors must prove that the defendants operated an "enterprise" and that they committed at least two designated crimes, or "racketeering acts" as part of the enterprise. The continuing criminal enterprise charge, of which the three gang leaders were convicted, required proof that each defendant supervised at least five subordinates in the illegal organization.

As the jury's foreman, Janet Farley, read the verdicts, Boyd collapsed in tears in a seat behind the defense table. Later, Revercomb denied a request that she be allowed to remain free on bond, agreeing with Assistant U.S. Attorney Odessa Vincent that, because Boyd faces a possible 30-year sentence, there is a risk she might flee.

Williams-Davis, Nugent and Darryl Williams, dressed in colorful Nigerian shirts, sat impassively as the verdicts were announced. Restrepo, a Colombian, appeared to weep quietly as an interpreter whispered the verdicts in her ear.

Revercomb said he will ask that the defendants be moved to the Lorton Correctional Complex from the D.C. jail after the jury decides on the forfeitures.

The assault charges and one of the murder charges against Williams-Davis and Nugent stemmed from a shooting that prosecutors said was a climax of the gang's violence.

That last battle, at midday on April 18, 1989, at an auto repair shop in Northeast Washington, left one man dead and another shot 10 times. Prosecutors said the three R Street leaders went to the garage to avenge the murder the previous day of Nugent's younger brother, Sean Martin, who also worked in the drug organization.

Martin was slain, prosecutors said, in retaliation for the killing a week earlier of Gerard Bailey, a rival R Street drug dealer.

Freddie Lee Bailey, Gerard Bailey's older brother, testified about being shot at the garage.

As he stood in front of the garage, Bailey said, he saw a man, walk across 14th Street NE toward him. When the man was about 30 feet away, Bailey said, the man raised his head, pulled a gun from his belt and starting to fire. Bailey testified that he recognized the shooter as Nugent.

Not knowing he had already been hit by rounds from the .45-caliber pistol, Bailey ran into the body shop's office where he had his own gun hidden. "I didn't make it to the gun," Bailey testified.

Another man in the garage, Francis Scrivner, died of a single bullet wound in the abdomen.

The three gang leaders had been charged with first-degree murder, but the jury convicted them of second-degree.

Along the unit block of R Street NE last night, there was sympathy and condemnation for the defendants.

"I figured they did some things wrong in the past, but I didn't think they did that much," said Steven Brooks, 20. "This is a nice neighborhood, we all grew up together," said a 26-year-old man who said he was a friend of the defendants.

The 26-year-old said he knew the defendants were involved in drug sales. "Still, two life sentences for selling drugs, that's crazy."

"I say get rid of them all," said a 47-year-old man, who asked not to be identified. "They used to come out shooting every night. If I were killing your family, wouldn't you want me put away?"

Staff writer Santiago O'Donnell contributed to this report.