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Mr. Finci said it was his idea to make the 5K part of Howard’s plea deal in Maryland, so Prince George’s prosecutors would have proof of Howard’s cooperation and truthful testimony in the Gray case.

Asked why Howard deserved a favorable deal in the child-abuse case for his cooperation against drug dealers in Washington, Mr. Finci said, “It was a matter of a plea agreement that was negotiated to his benefit, and which he smartly accepted,” he said.

Calling Howard a “particularly valuable” witness, federal prosecutors filed a 5K motion for Howard in 2005 and helped him to get a sentence of eight years for his federal crimes. The sentence also began retroactively, meaning Howard got credit for time he served in federal custody since 2000.

Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, said federal prosecutors had no reason to know that the filing of a 5K motion for Howard in Washington would affect the disposition of the Keontaye Smith case in Prince George’s.

“We took no position in that case,” he said.

In a sentencing memo, federal prosecutors said Howard aided in three murders. In the 1994 murder of Ronald Powell, for instance, Howard was paid $500 after driving a getaway car and tossing the gun used in the murder over a bridge into the Anacostia River, according to court records.

“His decision to cooperate was very difficult given his close relationships with Kevin Gray and other defendants, but those relationships made his cooperation extremely valuable,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo on Howard’s behalf in 2005.

“His cooperation also entailed significant risk to his safety, and the likelihood that he will never be able to return safely to the neighborhoods where he has spent his entire life.”

The sentence

With his testimony in the Gray case finished, Howard remained in federal custody but was returned to Prince George’s for a hearing in the Keontaye Smith case on Jan. 6, 2006.

Prince George’s prosecutors dropped murder charges against Howard. In exchange, he pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse, which together still carried up to 30 years in prison.

By then, the original prosecutor in the Keontaye Smith case, Ms. Belton-Gofreed, had left the Prince George’s State’s Attorneys Office. And the new prosecutor seemed uneasy with the deal Howard was getting at the hearing.

“Your honor, all I can tell the court is because this offer was made by someone in our office and was accepted, we believe we can’t change the offer at this point,” Assistant State’s Attorney Donine Gaynor said at Howard’s Jan. 6, 2006, sentencing, according to a transcript.

“It’s our opinion we can’t change the contract,” she said.

Ms. Gaynor’s boss, Prince George’s State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey referred questions about Howard’s plea deal to Ms. Belton-Gofreed, saying through a spokesman that the agreement was brokered before he took office.

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