- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2000

Carl D. Cooper yesterday was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to murdering three workers in a Georgetown Starbucks coffee shop during a botched robbery in 1997.

Cooper, 30, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to 47 federal charges, including the murder counts. In exchange for his guilty plea, federal prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.

Wearing tan slacks, a dress shirt and tie, Cooper announced his plea before U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green and a courtroom packed with relatives and friends of his victims.

"My purpose to be here today is to plea to all 48 counts of the indictment," Cooper said at the podium at the start of the daylong hearing.

"[Is it] because you are guilty?" Judge Green said.

"Yes, your honor."

Cooper originally was charged with 48 counts, but prosecutors dropped a theft charge because it was a duplicate of another charge.

There was silence in the courtroom as Judge Green handed down the sentence and a few relatives and friends of the victims wiped away tears.

The tragedies "leave an impact on the victims forever … [people] who will never get to realize the full promise and blossom of life," Judge Green said.

After the sentencing, relatives of the Starbucks victims came to a press conference at the U.S. Attorney's Office to express their gratitude to U.S. Attorney Wilma Lewis and to say how the deaths of their loved one affected them.

"Today was a milestone," said MaryBelle Annenberg, mother of Mary Caitrin Mahoney, 24. "My question is, what did we learn? Mr. Cooper did not crawl out from under a rock.

"He planned his crime because Starbucks did not have surveillance cameras," she said. "What could Starbucks do differently … to put an end to this kind of crime?"

"Today ends a chapter of this situation," said Lawrence Goodrich, the father of Aaron David Goodrich, 18.

"I guess I was upset he didn't apologize," said Fran Black, Aaron's mother. "I was not sure if he was sorry he did this or he was sorry he got caught."

"It shows how a fellow like me has to worry every day when they go to work," said Lavar Brown, the brother-in-law of Emory Allen Evans, 25. "I was glad to see justice was done."

A minister accompanying Cooper's wife and mother declined to comment after the sentencing, as did Cooper's attorneys.

Two investigators Metropolitan Police Detective James Trainum and FBI Special Agent Brad Garrett whom Cooper had vowed to kill after his arrest, sat about 15 feet away.

In addition to the Starbucks triple murder, Cooper pleaded guilty to murdering a security guard in a D.C. apartment building, the attempted murder of a Prince George's County, Md., police officer, robbery, racketeering, conspiracy and operating a continuing criminal enterprise.

Cooper, who was arrested in March 1999, had been scheduled to go on trial Tuesday, the first death-penalty case in the District in about 30 years. His plea agreement saved the city and the victims' families a trial that could have lasted three months.

Attorney General Janet Reno decided to seek the death penalty in the federal case, although U.S. Attorney Wilma Lewis had not requested capital punishment if Cooper was convicted.

Only a conviction on federal charges could call the death penalty into play in the District, which banned capital punishment after its last execution in 1957.

Cooper yesterday refused to divulge details about the July 6, 1997, killings at the Starbucks on Wisconsin Avenue NW.

He had been calm throughout the hearing but grew somber when he had to answer Judge Green's questions about the triple murder.

Cooper said that he intended to rob the coffee shop, and that the shooting started when Miss Mahoney ran from the back office and grabbed one of two guns he was carrying.

"She fled into the second room. I caught her out in the hallway, and I tried to get her back in. She started going for the gun and the gun went off. The other two started to come out and I shot them," Cooper said.

Relatives of the victims and Cooper's mother, Gwendolyn, sobbed.

Judge Green asked Cooper if he took anything from the store or from his victims after killing them.

"No. I did not," he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein said Cooper planned the Starbucks robbery with Earnest Burwell but could not find Mr. Burwell on July 6, the last day of the long July 4 holiday weekend.

Cooper and Mr. Burwell, who was expected to testify against Cooper had the case gone to trial, wanted to rob the store on that day because the store would have plenty of cash on hand, prosecutors said.

Cooper decided to rob the store alone and took a .380 semiautomatic pistol and a .38-caliber revolver into the store and herded the three workers into the back room where the safe was located.

Mr. Wainstein said the botched robbery and murders were just part of a string of crimes Cooper was involved in with Mr. Burwell and others, including armed robberies in the District, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The list of crimes included the June 10, 1993, slaying of security guard Sandy Griffin at an apartment building in the 1100 block of 11th Street NW. Cooper admitted killing Mr. Griffin for his gun because Mr. Burwell did not have one.

"I told Sandy Griffin my intent was robbery and he went for his gun and I shot him," Cooper testified yesterday. "I picked up the gun from the floor."

Cooper originally was arrested for shooting off-duty Prince George's County police Officer Bruce Howard during an attempted robbery in 1996. Mr. Wainstein said Cooper shot Officer Howard and dropped a .38-caliber handgun, the same one used to kill Mr. Griffin.

Cooper was arrested March 1, 1999, at his home in the 1200 block of Gallatin Street NE for attempted robbery and assault in the shooting of Officer Howard. While in custody of Prince George's County police, he made three statements about the Starbucks murders, admitting to the killings in his final statement.

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