- The Washington Times - Friday, December 5, 2003

Few cases illustrate the brazenness of the criminal element that preys upon the people of cities like Baltimore than the murder of Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Luna. The body of Mr. Luna, 38, was found by Pennsylvania State Police early Thursday in a steambed near Lancaster, about 70 miles northeast of Baltimore. The federal prosecutor was “brutalized with multiple stab wounds” and put into a creek while still alive, the Lancaster County coroner said. Mr. Luna eventually drowned.

Shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday, Mr. Luna placed a telephone call to Arcangelo Tuminelli, the attorney for Walter Poindexter, a criminal defendant who he had been prosecuting in U.S. District Court in Baltimore this week. Just a few hours earlier, Mr. Luna had reached an agreement with the defense team representing Poindexter and his codefendant, Deon Smith. The pair were accused of running a heroin ring, in part from their Baltimore-area recording studio. According to court records, Poindexter sold the ring’s heroin under the name 9-11, and he used violence to protect turf and ensure the loyalty of his criminal cohorts.

Mr. Luna was supposed to send a fax finalizing details of the plea agreement to Mr. Tuminelli’s house. But the fax never arrived. The prosecutor apparently left his home in Elkridge shortly after receiving a telephone call late Wednesday night. Sometime between midnight and 5:30 a.m. Thursday, when his body was found, Mr. Luna was the victim of an unspeakably barbaric crime.

Poindexter and Smith entered their guilty pleas in federal court at 11:30 a.m Thursday. Poindexter agreed to plead guilty to three counts of distribution of heroin to a government witness, and Smith to distribution of heroin and possession of a firearm for purposes of drug trafficking. Investigators have not said whether they believe Mr. Luna’s murder had anything to do with the 9-11 group or any other case he prosecuted. To be sure, there were any number of other violent criminals who probably had it in for Mr. Luna.

The rest of us owe a great deal to public servants like Jonathan Luna. A highly talented lawyer, he was a former associate of the distinguished Washington law firm of Arnold & Porter. Mr. Luna doubtless could have made a good deal more money in private practice than he earned as an assistant U.S. attorney. But Mr. Luna, who leaves behind a wife and two children, wanted something more — to make the streets safer by putting dangerous criminals behind bars. The best way to honor him would be to bring the barbarians who ended his life to justice.

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