IN TERMS of criminal notoriety, no convicted felon from the District of Columbia can compete with Rayful Edmond III, the crack cocaine kingpin who sat astride the city’s narcotics trade as it spun out of control three decades ago. Flashy, free-spending and charismatic, Mr. Edmond made a myth for himself along with millions of dollars, leaving mayhem in his wake.
Now the District’s attorney general, Karl A. Racine, is inviting District residents to weigh in on a question raised earlier this year by federal prosecutors: Should Mr. Edmond, who from prison has been a valuable informant for law enforcement over almost 20 years, be granted leniency in the form of a shortened sentence? Or should he spend the rest of his life behind bars, in conformance with the sentence of life without parole he was given after being convicted in 1990?
In addition to three scheduled forums this month, plus a hotline for callers to weigh in by phone, a brief online questionnaire posted by Mr. Racine poses those questions, among others, as a means of measuring local sentiment on the question of Mr. Edmond’s prospective release. The antiseptic quality of the posted description of Mr. Edmond’s misdeeds — “ran a major cocaine ring” — stands in jarring contrast with the extravagance of his crimes and the lurid spectacle of his trial, in which the threat to jurors was judged so extreme that their identities were shielded and they were protected by bulletproof glass in the courtroom.
The survey is unorthodox; it might be mistaken for a public-relations stunt were it not for the fact that it was initiated at the request of the federal judge overseeing Mr. Edmond’s case, who asked the assistance of the attorney general’s office in soliciting community input. The request was made after the U.S. attorney’s office for the District took the extraordinary step, in February, of asking that Mr. Edmond’s sentence be reduced in consideration of his cooperation with authorities, which has led to hundreds of drug dealers’ convictions.
The reality check is that the odds of his release anytime soon — let alone in the District, where as a “snitch” he might well be targeted — are probably remote. In addition to his sentence in the District, he faces a 30-year term for a conviction for drug-dealing that continued after he was incarcerated in a federal prison in Pennsylvania. Prosecutors there are not asking for leniency as their colleagues in the District have done. And while Mr. Edmond’s lawyer asks that his punishment be reduced to time served, it’s not yet clear what sort of break District prosecutors are prepared to request on his behalf.
The attorney general’s office will report to the court on the public’s feedback by the end of August. The results will provide a telling measure of whether the community is prepared to go easy on an infamous felon-turned-informant.