- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

A former high-ranking member of the Murder Inc. crime syndicate in the District, which was charged in 31 killings, has won a “very unusual” sentence that will keep him out of prison, newly unsealed court records show.

Maurice Andrews, 36, former confidant of D.C. drug kingpin Kevin Gray, faced 30 years to life in prison under federal sentencing guidelines after pleading guilty to racketeering charges related to several murders.

However, in what prosecutors call a “very unusual” request, the U.S. Attorney’s Office recently sought a sentence of time served and probation. Authorities cited Andrews’ role as a key government witness in the prosecution of the violent street gang.

“He testified in dozens, literally dozens of criminal incidents that he was aware of, ranging from individual drug deals to murder,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew G. Olsen said at Andrews’ Sept. 29 sentencing.

U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth sentenced Andrews, who has been in the federal witness-protection program for five years, to time served and five years’ probation, according to a transcript of the hearing.

The proceedings had remained sealed until last week.

Federal authorities have called Murder Inc. the most violent gang in the District’s history. It ran much of the city’s crack cocaine and heroin trade during the 1990s and killed potential government witnesses, authorities said.

Several leaders of the gang — including Gray, convicted of 19 murders, and Rodney Moore, convicted of 10 murders — are serving sentences of life in prison without parole. A jury deadlocked on giving them the death penalty.

The Murder Inc. case resurfaced last month when government witness Bethlehem Ayele was fatally shot after her car was stopped in Alexandria. Police have described the killing of Miss Ayele, a restaurant owner and real-estate agent, as a targeted hit. She was one of several people who cooperated in the case.

Andrews pleaded guilty in July 2000. Among other charges, he admitted to supplying the gun used to kill one man and assisting in plans to kill two others.

One victim, Carlos Cardoza, was suspected of cooperating with investigators. According to testimony, Andrews drove contract killer Oscar Veal Jr. to Cardoza’s house to have him killed. Asked how he felt upon learning Veal killed Cardoza, Andrews testified, “It just another thing, I mean, it was the life I was living at the time.”

Veal, who also cooperated, admitted that he committed seven killings. He is serving 25 years in prison.

At his sentencing, Andrews apologized by saying: “I just got myself into something I couldn’t get out of. I was too far in and I wanted out. But I didn’t know how to get out.”

Andrews grew up in Southeast. He worked sporadically in carpentry and clerical jobs, meeting Gray sometime in 1994. The pair clicked. They spent nearly every day together for five years, Andrews testified.

Andrews testified that Gray got drunk and told him about committing numerous murders. But Andrews added that he knew better than to directly ask Gray such questions.

“He gets suspicious and thinks you’re asking him questions for a reason, and he ends up killing you,” Andrews testified.

However, defense attorneys sought to discredit Andrews, saying he repeatedly lied under oath to get a reduced sentence.

One defense theory held that Andrews testified for the government because he needed help paying his medical bills after learning in jail he was HIV positive.

Under cross-examination in 2002, Andrews told Moore’s attorney that he received $1,200 to $1,800 a month at various times after joining the witness-protection program.

He also said that he got money for furniture, a car and a job and that the government paid more than $1,600 of his unpaid parking tickets.

In January, Sebastian Graber, an attorney for Larry Wilkerson, whom Andrews testified against, filed court papers stating Andrews and other cooperating witnesses conspired to “put murders” on Gray, Wilkerson and others.

Andrews was “known for not telling the truth,” and associates knew him by the nickname “Lie-Lie.” Mr. Graber stated in court filings.

“Mr. Andrews is willing to lie and lie about murders,” Mr. Graber told Judge Lamberth during a hearing in 2004.

Yet prosecutors say Andrews was a reliable and truthful witness, despite his reputation.

“Although he was known on the streets as a partyer and drug dealer who could not be trusted, he took his cooperation … very seriously,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Jeffress wrote in a Sept. 27 memo to Judge Lamberth.

“We understand that a departure of this magnitude is very unusual,” Miss Jeffress wrote, referring to Andrews’ sentence.

“We believe, however, that defendant Andrews’ extraordinary cooperation justifies this significant benefit.”

It is not clear what Andrews has been doing for the past five years.

“He’s got a steady job, pays his taxes and stays out of trouble,” his attorney, James Lyons, told Judge Lamberth.

“I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Andrews added.

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