The city report said 510 participants responded via online surveys, questionnaires at community forums and a phone line set up for residents to call in. Among those who had an explicit opinion on the request, 239 people said Edmond should be released early and 243 people said he should remain in prison. About two dozen people were undecided.
Edmond, 54, oversaw a sweeping cocaine ring in the 1980s that authorities said fueled the crack epidemic in the city and contributed to a rising homicide rate. He was sentenced to life for federal drug distribution in the District and an additional 30 years for dealing drugs while in prison in Pennsylvania. That sentence was to run consecutive to his sentence of life without parole.
Edmond’s attorney, Jason Downs, who declined to comment on the survey Friday, is requesting his D.C. sentence be ended immediately. Still, prosecutors in Pennsylvania have not indicated if they, too, would seek a reduction. Unless they do, even if Edmond is ordered released from prison in his federal cases in the District, he would have to begin serving his prison term in Pennsylvania.
Sullivan scheduled an Oct. 16 hearing where witnesses for Edmond are expected to testify about why he should be granted a sentence reduction. Sullivan would probably issue his decision weeks later.
Sullivan ordered Edmond to be present at the October proceeding. At a hearing in May, Edmond appeared via video on TV screens from an undisclosed prison.
As is customary with proposed sentence reductions, judges want to hear from victims and their families before they make a decision. But federal prosecutors informed Sullivan that no direct victims were able to be identified in Edmond’s cases.
Sullivan then asked District Attorney General Karl A. Racine’s office if it could survey residents so they could have a voice in the process. It was the first time the office had been asked to seek the community’s views in an adult criminal case in such, officials there have said.
In May, Racine’s office set up an online web portal and created a dedicated phone line where participants could respond to questions such as “Should the U.S. grant Edmond’s prison reduction?” Racine’s office also hosted three public forums and two smaller sessions for city leaders, including clergy, academics and neighborhood leaders.
Many who supported Edmond’s release, the survey found, believed it was too long, and some noted that it was harsher than some sentences for murder and sexual assault.
Some said Edmond could serve as a role model for D.C.’s youth population and could mentor them about staying out of criminal life. But even if Edmond is released early, his attorney said it was unlikely Edmond would return to Washington because he would remain in a federal witness protection program.
Those who were opposed to Edmond’s release cited the crack epidemic and record homicide rate of the mid-1980s. Edmond was never convicted in any murders, although authorities have said as many as 30 killings were linked to his operation.
Survey coordinators said one former juror on Edmond’s trial, a former D.C. detective and a former FBI agent all wrote that Edmond should complete his sentence. The former juror said that releasing Edmond would have minimized the time the jury spent and the security risks they faced.
Prison reductions, many respondents said, should be reserved for those who have shown to have been rehabilitated and remorseful, not for those who provide prosecutors with information that leads to the arrest of others.
Racine did not offer an opinion.