D.C. man gets 18 years for $600 drug deal

Judge finds evidence of conspiracy

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A co-defendant in the case, David Wilson, was sentenced to 45 years in prison last week. He was convicted in two murders and on drug charges.

Ball was one of six defendants prosecuted in the case. Prosecutors say 18 people were indicted in all, many pleading guilty.

Ball’s young children were escorted out of the courtroom before Judge Roberts issued the sentence. Ball, who was acquitted of murder charges in the case, admitted selling drugs but said he wasn’t the person prosecutors portrayed during trial and at his sentencing.

Wearing a black and white striped jail suit with more than a dozen family members looking on, Ball said moments before his sentencing, “It may look like a conspiracy to some, but it’s not a conspiracy.”

In a sentencing memo, prosecutors called for a 40-year sentence for Ball on the basis of, among other things, “ample evidence” that Ball was the leader of a criminal conspiracy.

Other “acts of violence, witness intimidation and other obstructive acts,” prosecutors argued, “show what a true danger Ball is.” The prosecutors also said they were asking for a tougher sentence for Ball not on the basis of acquitted conduct, but uncharged conduct — or actions the jurors were never asked to consider.

By contrast, defense attorneys called the jury verdict a “virtually total rejection” of the government’s case against Ball.

Ball’s sentence is likely to be appealed.

In 2008, the D.C. Circuit affirmed an acquitted conduct sentence in another case where the defendant, Tarik Settles, was convicted on a count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was acquitted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and of using a firearm during a drug-trafficking offense.

Settles appealed his 57-month sentence, arguing the judge relied on conduct of which had been acquitted in enhancing his sentence.

The appeals court upheld the sentence, ruling that the long-standing precedent of the appeals court and of the Supreme Court “establish that a sentencing judge may consider uncharged or even acquitted conduct in calculating an appropriate sentence.”

The ruling also noted, however, many judges and commentators have argued that acquitted conduct sentencing to increase a defendant’s sentencing “undermines respect for the law and the jury system.”

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