D.C. Assault co-founder Curtis Malone pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on Wednesday to distributing large amounts of cocaine and heroin and will spend the next five to 10 years in prison.
In a plea agreement, Malone admitted responsibility for at least five kilograms but fewer than 15 kilograms of cocaine and heroin as part of a narcotics conspiracy that dates from at least August 2012. One of five co-defendants in the case, he will be sentenced during a May 28 hearing.
Malone, 45, was arrested and indicted in August as part of a year-long Drug Enforcement Administration investigation.
During a search of Malone’s Upper Marlboro home on Aug. 9, police recovered one kilogram of cocaine, 84 grams of heroin, one .44-caliber semiautomatic handgun and paraphernalia associated with the distribution of controlled substances. They also seized one kilogram of cocaine and $20,000 in cash from co-defendant Stephen Williams, Malone’s cousin, after he emerged from Malone’s home that day.
Malone faced a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years if convicted of all the charges levied against him by prosecutors. Because of a 1990 conviction for possession with the intent to distribute cocaine that sent him to prison for three months, Malone would have faced a mandatory sentence of 15 years if convicted only of possessing the amount of narcotics discovered in his house in August.
As part of the plea agreement, Malone also agreed to forfeit $150,000. The government has already seized approximately $57,000 in jewelry and $2,247 in cash from Malone. Under the agreement, Malone is allowed to withdraw his plea if he’s sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.
Malone spent the past 20 years building D.C. Assault into one of the nation’s most prominent AAU basketball programs, producing future NBA players such as Jeff Green, Michael Beasley and Keith Bogans. As of Wednesday, he is still pictured on the organization’s Web site.
Malone’s arrest, though, has put D.C. Assault’s future in doubt.
Two former D.C. Assault coaches — Damon Handon and Mike Sumner — have splintered off and formed a new organization. D.C. Premier will be sponsored by Under Armour, which also sponsored D.C. Assault, and many of D.C. Assault’s former players are expected to play for Handon and Sumner when the AAU circuit starts up again this spring.
D.C. Assault insists nobody else involved with the organization had any role in Malone’s drug dealing.
Before Wednesday’s plea agreement, prosecutors had said testimony from another DEA investigation suggested Malone was part of a network of drug traffickers along the East Coast who received “hundreds and hundreds of kilograms” of narcotics on a monthly basis from the same supplier since at least 2009.
Prosecutors said Malone’s role in D.C. Assault was used as a disguise for his drug-trafficking activities. A wiretap on two of Malone’s telephones revealed he used basketball apparel such as shoe brands and uniform sizes as code words for narcotics and money under aliases such as “White Boy” and “Daddy.”
“More than 20 years after he was first convicted of dealing cocaine, Curtis Malone returned to a life of drug trafficking,” U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said in a statement. “He was perceived as a role model for our young people, but in truth he peddled heroin and cocaine and illegally possessed a firearm. Malone now faces a lengthy prison sentence that will send a clear message to the young men he sought to influence: Joining the world of guns and drugs is a surefire way to ruin your future.”
Two other co-defendants involved in the case — Clarence Redd and Derico Williams — have also signed plea agreements in recent weeks. Williams received a sentencing guideline of 51 to 63 months in prison, and Redd could spend up to 10 years in prison. Stephen Williams, another co-defendant, is in the process of negotiating his own plea agreement while awaiting trial.
Micah Bidgell, whom prosecutors allege was Malone’s partner and distributed heroin extensively in the Clay Terrace neighborhood of Northeast Washington, remains at large.
Malone appeared in U.S. District Court on Wednesday wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. None of his family members attended the hearing. On Feb. 27, Malone initially signed a plea agreement, only to back out during court proceedings in a dispute over sentencing guidelines and the amount of narcotics prosecutors claimed he should take responsibility for.
“Over the past couple weeks that’s been my holdup because I don’t accept responsibility. But it ain’t worth getting a bunch of time,” Malone said in his only extended comments in court.