- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 4, 2003

A federal prosecutor who failed to show up in a Baltimore courtroom to seal a plea deal in a drug conspiracy case against a local rap performer was found yesterday fatally shot and stabbed in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania State Police found the body of Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan P. Luna at 5:30 a.m. in a stream bed about six miles northeast of Lancaster, Pa. Mr. Luna, 38, had suffered gunshot wounds and multiple stab wounds to the neck. His car was found nearby.

His boss, U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio, said preliminary evidence points to murder, but he did not say if authorities believe the killing is connected to any case on which Mr. Luna was working.

“Let there be no doubt that everyone in law enforcement, local police, state police, the United States Marshal’s Service, ATF, FBI, are united,” Mr. DiBiagio said during a brief news conference in Baltimore. “We will find out who did this, and we are dedicated to bringing the person responsible for this tragedy to justice.”

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft pledged that “all appropriate resources will be dedicated to investigating this matter.”

“Today, we learned of the tragic death of District of Maryland Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Luna,” Mr. Ashcroft said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire United States Department of Justice, I express our deepest condolences to Jonathan’s family, colleagues and friends.”

Prosecutors in Mr. DiBiagio’s office notified the FBI’s Baltimore field office yesterday morning after Mr. Luna failed to appear for court.

Mr. Luna got a phone call Wednesday night at his home in Elkridge, Md., and left the house about midnight, a federal law-enforcement official told the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity. His wife reported him missing.

Since Monday, Mr. Luna had been prosecuting Baltimore rapper Deon Lionnel Smith and his one-time associate, Walter Oriley Poindexter, for running a violent drug ring, in part from their Baltimore-area recording studio. They were accused of heroin distribution and conspiracy.

U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr., who was presiding over the case, said yesterday that Mr. Luna had reached a plea agreement with the defense team Wednesday afternoon and that all the parties were expected to appear yesterday morning to enter the agreement.

Smith and Poindexter entered their guilty pleas at 11:30 a.m. — about 21/2 hours before Judge Quarles was notified that Mr. Luna’s body had been found. The pair remained in custody last night.

Smith’s attorney, Kenneth Ravenell, said Smith agreed to plead guilty to one count of distribution of heroin and to possession of a firearm for the purposes of drug trafficking. Poindexter agreed to plead guilty to three counts of distribution of heroin to a government witness. Conspiracy charges against the men were dropped.

“It’s a shock,” Mr. Ravenell said. “For all of us who knew him, it’s a shock.”

Court papers say Smith and Poindexter profited from a violent heroin business that operated from various locations in the Baltimore area. The records say Poindexter sold the group’s heroin under the name “9-11” and he used violence to protect turf and maintain loyalty within the group.

Poindexter, known by the nickname “Fella,” also was accused in the January 2001 killing of Alvin “L” Jones over what authorities said was Poindexter’s belief that Mr. Jones had burglarized one of the drug group’s stash houses. Poindexter had not been charged in that killing.

Last year, Mr. Luna was the lead prosecutor in a case involving Eric Bennett, the leader of a violent crack-cocaine outfit known as the “Old York & Cator Boys,” named for the Baltimore neighborhood where Bennett grew up.

Bennett, Solomon Jones and Tavon Bradley pleaded guilty about a week after trial began in January 2002. Bennett also admitted ordering a series of violent acts to further his narcotics-trafficking enterprise, including several shootings and assaults.

Mr. Luna, who grew up in the Bronx, attended Fordham University and the University of North Carolina law school. He was an associate of the Washington law firm of Arnold and Porter in 1993 and 1994 before becoming a staff attorney with the Federal Trade Commission’s general counsel office from 1994 until 1997. He then worked as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., before coming to Baltimore.

Mr. Luna was married and had two children.

The FBI’s phone line for tips is 410/265-8080.

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