DC drug kingpin Rayful Edmond in court seeking sentence reduction

Convicted D.C. drug kingpin Rayful Edmond was in court Wednesday seeking a reduction in his life sentence.

The office of U.S. Attorney Jesse Liu is looking for Edmond’s sentence to be reduced to 40 years; defense attorney Jason Downs is asking for it to be cut to 15 years.

Sullivan said he’d make his decision between Jan. 22 and Feb. 12 of next year.

Edmond, who has been serving his life sentence since 1990, took the witness stand Wednesday, telling the judge “I’m remorseful; I’m sorry to everybody I hurt and everybody I disappointed.” He added that he thought God has a plan for his life and he wants to mentor at-risk youth to share his life as a lesson. Other witnesses said Edmond’s character had changed. A longtime family friend said, “I believe in him; I believe in redemption.”

During his closing argument, Downs talked about Edmond’s character. At one point, Edmond pulled his sweater over his face and began to cry.

Edmond was considered the kingpin of about one-third of the District’s drug trade during the 1980s, at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic that turned D.C. into the murder capital of the U.S. and some of the city’s streets into open-air drug markets.

Defense witnesses, including former investigators for the FBI and the D.C. police, testified that Edmond cooperated with them for nearly 24 years, putting himself and his family at risk, after they learned he was running a drug-trafficking operation from inside the prison at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

The government said in court Wednesday that Edmond had helped in several ways: His knowledge and willingness to testify helped lead to convictions in three cases, including the “Murder Inc.” trial of Kevin Gray; provided background information leading to a wiretap that led to a conviction; provided background information in solving cold-case homicides, and provided information to the inspector general of the Department of Justice to affect prison reform.

Downs said Edmond’s cooperation was so extensive that it led to 111 indictments against 340 defendants.

A high-profile life

At the time of his arrest, Edmond, then 24, was a household name. His family-run operation was estimated by law enforcement officials to be moving up to 1,700 pounds of cocaine per month and making more than $1 million per week. His mother was arrested as part of his ring, eventually serving nine years in prison.

Edmond’s trial was marked by unprecedented security measures; jury members were kept anonymous for their protection.

Edmond was sentenced to life in prison in 1990 after he was convicted of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute large quantities of cocaine and cocaine base, unlawfully employing a person under 18 years of age, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, and other offenses.

He was never convicted of any murders, but D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in June that at least 30 killings were related to his business.

Edmond lived a high-profile life, sponsoring local basketball tournaments and taking lavish trips to Las Vegas to attend boxing matches.

Racine told The Associated Press he grew up in the same generation as Edmond and may have unwittingly played in basketball tournaments that were partially sponsored by him. He said the tales of Edmond’s generosity in the community were commonly heard about urban drug lords and Mafia dons alike.

Community divided

In August, D.C. ran an unprecedented survey asking residents about whether Edmond should be released.

Of the 510 people interviewed, opinion was split almost perfectly — 239 people supported a reduction; 243 opposed it, and 28 were undecided or did not state an explicit opinion.

The report’s summary found that “certain commenters believed that Edmond was uniquely responsible for the crack epidemic in the District, while others viewed him as a victim of the racial disparities that plague the criminal justice system.”

One person surveyed said, “Good deeds can never undo the damage he did.” Another said, “30 years in jail … and help solving multiple murders … He’s paid his price to society and then some.”

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report from D.C. The Associated Press also contributed to this report. 

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Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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