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The assignment fell to Janie Jeffers, executive deputy director of the federal D.C. Interagency Task Force in the Clinton administration in the late 1990s. She later won a presidential appointment on the U.S. Parole Commission.

Ms. Jeffers dove into her work, visiting Southeast three or four times a week. Increasingly, she found herself in the Congress Park housing complex working alongside a community activist named Antwuan Ball.

“My first recollection is he came over to me and introduced himself and said he wanted to learn what he could do to change his community,” Ms. Jeffers said. “He just said it in such a way, there was this gut instinct that here’s somebody different.”

Ball also had begun volunteering with the Capital Area Food Bank, where he met Edgar Cahn, special counsel to Robert F. Kennedy during the Kennedy administration and founder of the University of District of Columbia law school.

Along with Michael Kimsey, chief executive of the District-based Kimsey Foundation, Mr. Cahn and Ms. Jeffers helped Ball start a consulting business and nonprofit ventures in Congress Park called MANN Inc., an acronym for Making a Neighborhood Network, and Changing Neighborhoods into Communities, or CNIC. Mr. Cahn, Ms. Jeffers and Mr. Kimsey remain supporters of Ball.

Soon, Ball was attending monthly meetings at the White House conference center with Ms. Jeffers.

In 2002, Ball was even quoted in a newsletter by the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy in an article about efforts to turn around Congress Park.

“We went from having illegitimate control of the neighborhood to being made legitimate,” Ball was quoted as saying in the newsletter. “I couldn’t stand to watch these guys on crack. It was killing me. Some of the guys who I use to sell to are in drug rehab now and they call me in the middle of the night when they need to get through those rough times.”

In February 2004, Ball was called to testify for a defendant in another D.C. drug case. While on the stand, he admitted dealing cocaine but said he had left the drug life behind.

“I still consider myself a part of the streets, but I’m a positive part of the streets now and my code of silence is broken,” he said.

He also testified that his “knucklehead days” in the drug life had ended five years earlier.

Yet authorities investigating Ball weren’t convinced. With their tape of the 2001 drug deal in hand and statements from numerous cooperating witnesses, Ball was arrested within months.

The juror

Jim Caron is a retired economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nearly two years ago, he got a jury summons, showed up at the federal courthouse and was picked for a trial that would open his eyes to a side of Washington unknown to most federal workers and tourists.

For eight months, Mr. Caron and fellow jurors were told sharply contrasting versions of life, death and drug dealing in Congress Park. They came to know all the figures in the case by real names and street names: Antwuan “Big Ant” Ball, David “Cool Wop” Wilson and Gregory “Boy-Boy” Bell to name just a few.

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