Constance “Bootsie” Perry, 78, mother of Rayful Edmond III, leaves a federal court in the District after attending a sentence-reduction hearing for her son, who oversaw a sweeping D.C. cocaine ring in the 1980s. (Keith Alexander/The Washington Post)

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that 1980s D.C. drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III deserves to have his life prison sentence reduced, but they do not believe he should be immediately released.

In a hearing in federal court in the District, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Crabb said the circumstances of Edmund’s case are “very unusual.” The prosecutor cited Edmund’s crimes, his 30 years of incarceration and his extensive cooperation with prosecutors over much of that time.

He said the government had not yet concluded how much time it would seek to have shaved from Edmond’s punishment but “it is unlikely the U.S. will be asking for time served.” District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered the government to come up with a specific request by June 11.

In a stunning move in February, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia filed a motion requesting Edmond’s early release from prison. Prosecutors wrote that Edmond had been cooperating with authorities over nearly two decades, helping them understand the workings of the drug trade and convict other dealers.

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.


Rayful Edmond III, in 1989.

Edmond was sentenced to life for federal drug distribution in the District. He is facing an additional 30 years for dealing drugs behind bars while he was in prison in Pennsylvania for his D.C. case. That sentence was to run consecutive to his sentence of life without parole.

On Tuesday, Crabb told Sullivan that prosecutors in Pennsylvania were still “assessing” his case there and deciding whether they would seek any reduction.

Attorney Jason Downs asked the judge for Edmond’s immediate release. “My client began seeking his release from prison since 2014 after his cooperation agreement with the government ended in 2015. He is due his freedom,” Downs said.

Edmond was not present in person at the hearing. Instead, a live video feed showing him from the chest up appeared on the eight screens throughout the courtroom. Sitting at a desk at an undisclosed location, he wore an Army-green prison uniform shirt. He appeared heavier than at his trial decades ago, with a slightly receding hairline, but still present was his large grin.

Sullivan asked Edmond how he was doing. “I’m doing fine. Thank you,” he responded.

At one point, Edmond saw his 78-year-old mother, Constance “Bootsie” Perry. She and his sisters sat in the second row of the audience.

Edmond blew kisses at Perry, who at times wiped her eyes. Perry gestured with a hugging motion back at him and mouthed “I love you.” During a break in the hearing, Perry said “it’s time” her son was released.

Perry was convicted of being part of her son’s drug empire but Edmond agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in 1998 in exchange for her release from prison.

Sullivan, a District native, asked many questions of the lawyers during a hearing that stretched more than 90 minutes. He wondered aloud whether he had the authority to release Edmond to time served. A prosector said he would investigate. Sullivan then asked if Edmond were released, whether probation officials would be able to maintain him in the federal witness protection program. A probation officer said that was possible.

Sullivan then asked Downs of his client’s plans should he be released. “I assume he doesn’t plan on coming back to the District upon his release?”

Downs said he would not discuss his client’s plans or whether “he plans to live in the District, Maryland or Timbuktu.”

Sullivan cautioned those in the courtroom they should not assume which way he was leaning by his questions. The judge also said he wanted to hear from victims who might have been affected by Edmond’s drug dealing.

At the hearing, Karl A. Racine, the District’s attorney general, outlined how his office planned in coming months to alert District residents of Edmond’s proposed released. Racine said his office planned to survey former and current D.C. residents to get a sense of their thoughts and concerns.

Downs said he planned on calling about seven witnesses at a future hearing to testify on behalf of Edmond. One person Downs identified was Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Dominguez, the federal prosecutor who convicted Edmond. Downs told Sullivan that Dominguez now supports Edmond’s release. Crabb objected to Dominguez being called as a witness on behalf of Edmond.

The next hearing in which witnesses are scheduled to testify was set for Oct. 16. Sullivan ordered that Edmond be present.