- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2011

Rayful Edmond III, whose crack cocaine empire netted $1 million a week in the late 1980s, walked into the federal courthouse in Washington nearly a decade ago as a witness for the prosecution in a massive murder-for-hire drug case.

By all accounts, his testimony was riveting: He talked about lying to Diane Sawyer when she interviewed him on national television; about his custom-made $100,000 Rolex; about his Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Jaguar; and about filling up garbage bags with the small bills he couldn’t be bothered to count to give to neighborhood children in Northeast Washington.

But now, all these years later, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit - which is considering a lengthy appeal from the defendants Edmond testified against, including Kevin Gray, convicted of a record 19 murders - is questioning the decision by the U.S. attorney’s office to put Edmond on the witness stand.

The Edmond testimony is one of a host of issues that attorneys for Gray, Rodney Moore, who was convicted of 10 murders, and four other co-defendants are raising in hopes of having their convictions reversed after a death-penalty trial that lasted 10 months, one of the longest-running criminal trials in D.C. history.


“I’m rather concerned about the Edmond testimony,” Chief Judge David B. Sentelle said at oral arguments in the case last week. The judge said that while Edmond testified about his big crack-dealing operation, it wasn’t clear what much of his testimony had to do with the defendants in the trial.

“I’m not really sure … how that was relevant in the first place,” he said.

Questioning whether jurors could have been prejudiced by the testimony, the judge also noted that Edmond testified early in the case, and that jurors may remember more about what they hear first during a long trial.

In court papers, the appeals attorneys hammered the Edmond testimony. They argued that, at the trial, prosecutors said the infamous drug dealer’s testimony would help shed light on the formation of the Gray-Moore drug conspiracy.

Instead, the appeals attorneys argued years later, Edmond spent nearly nine hours on the witness stand and “prosecutors were permitted to let Edmond boast of exploits extending far beyond the conspiracy for which he was sentenced to life in prison.”

“Nothing Edmond said about Moore was in any way connected to the conspiracy charged here,” the attorneys said.

Attorneys for the government disagree, saying in court papers that Edmond’s testimony showed he did drug deals with Moore’s uncle and that in the mid-1980s, Moore also received cocaine from Edmond.

Edmond’s testimony was properly admitted in this case to demonstrate how the drug trafficking network begun by Moore, and later co-managed by Moore and Gray, was formed,” the government argued in its appeals brief.

Cooperation

Regardless of what impact Edmond’s testimony may have had on jurors in the case against Gray and Moore, transcripts from his days on the stand shed light, in his own words, on a question that remains unclear: Why did the city’s most notorious drug dealer testify for the government?

The decision came about because Edmond, now 46, never stopped dealing drugs after he was sent to prison. While in the high-security federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., Edmond formed new drug contacts and began setting up big cocaine deals directly from suppliers in Colombia.

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