- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2007

A D.C. man characterized as a violent “enforcer” for a local drug gang was convicted yesterday in federal court of four killings, setting up the rare possibility of capital punishment in the District.

Larry Gooch, 27, who authorities said acted as the muscle of the M Street Crew drug gang, was found guilty in U.S. District Court of the Aug. 1, 2000, murders of Christopher Lane, 19, and William Cunningham, 27, and the Feb. 21, 2003, murders of Calvin Cooper, 40, and his girlfriend, Yolanda Miller, 32.

He was acquitted of the Sept. 13, 2002, shooting death of Miguel Miles.

A jury found Gooch guilty after 15 days of deliberation. He faces the possibility of the death penalty when his sentencing hearing begins Monday, said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Channing Phillips.

Mr. Phillips declined to comment on Gooch’s possible sentence, citing a gag order issued earlier in the trial.

Though capital punishment is banned in the District, Gooch could get the death penalty because he has been charged in a federal case.

The Justice Department last year filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Gooch, a decision that had required the approval of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

According to court documents, Gooch, nicknamed “Goo,” was considered “crazy” by other members of the M Street Crew, a PCP ring in Northeast. He acted as the gang’s “enforcer” or “muscle,” the documents said.

Three men identified by prosecutors as leaders in the M Street gang — John L. Franklin, 33; George “Shug” Wilson, 37; and William Dee Robinson, 30, a former D.C. Public Schools bus driver — are serving life sentences in the case. More than 30 people have been arrested, but Gooch is the only defendant facing the death penalty.

Prosecutors said Gooch shot Miss Miller and her boyfriend, Mr. Cooper because he suspected they were stealing drugs or cooperating with police. Mr. Cooper was found shot three times in the back in an alley.

Gooch killed Mr. Cunningham during a home-invasion robbery, while a co-defendant killed Mr. Lane, prosecutors said.

During Gooch’s trial, which began in January, his attorneys argued that he did not shoot anybody and refuted prosecutors’ depiction of their client as an enforcer.

Death-penalty trials are rare in the District, where local law bars capital punishment. However, defendants can face the death penalty in certain federal cases. Since its reinstatement in 1976, only two capital-murder cases have proceeded to trial in the District.

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