The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘I did not kill this person,’ man says while pleading guilty to role in deadly drug deal

The federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va.
The federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va. (Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post)

A Herndon, Va., resident who fled the country after a deadly dispute over a drug deal pleaded guilty to a capital crime Thursday, while emphasizing that he was not a triggerman in the 2011 slaying.

“I did not kill this person,” Saul Mejia said in Alexandria federal court, through a Spanish interpreter.

Ten years ago, Mejia and two others went to a Reston apartment to sell two ounces of cocaine, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ben’Ary. The buyers tried to rob them, and one, 34-year-old Colvin Morris, fled the building. Mejia’s two associates chased Morris into the parking lot, where they shot and killed him, according to the government. Mejia, who stayed in the apartment, was not armed but knew that his co-conspirators carried handguns, according to the court record.

At the urging of his accomplices, according to Ben’Ary, Mejia fled to Honduras. One of the co-conspirators has since died and the other is suspected to be at large in Latin America. Mejia, who returned to the United States some years ago, was arrested in Fairfax County in 2019.

Under federal law, involvement in a drug trafficking crime that results in death is punishable by execution. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty for Mejia and agreed to ask for a sentence of no more than 25 years in prison.

“This is not a murder charge,” Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. told Mejia, but “the circumstances that you were involved in resulted in a death.”

Defense attorney Frank Salvato said Mejia is cooperating with the government ahead of a Nov. 11 sentencing.

His “focus has always been remorseful,” Salvato said in court, “but also that he did not kill Colvin Morris.”

Decriminalization of marijuana is pushing pot-sniffing police dogs into retirement

Fairfax County prosecutor to use data to help root out disparities in justice system

Four juveniles arrested in armed robberies across the District