- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Defense attorneys have asked a federal court to reject a rare death-sentence prosecution against two D.C. men awaiting trial on charges of leading a violent drug gang, arguing that federal prosecutors sought capital punishment too late.

In recent court filings, attorneys for Antwuan Ball and David Wilson said federal prosecutors violated a court order because they gave notice of intent to seek the death penalty more than a week after a Sept. 15 deadline.

“Courts have to draw the line somewhere,” Mr. Ball’s attorneys, Steven C. Tabackman and John J. Carney, argued in a memo to U.S. District Court Judge Richard W. Roberts.

Mr. Wilson’s attorneys also have asked Judge Roberts to sanction prosecutors, saying the government’s late filing has led to publicity about the case that could prejudice a jury against their client.

Yesterday, prosecutors filed a memo with Judge Roberts accusing defense attorneys of “browbeating” the government and second-guessing its decisions.

The memo also said that the notice to seek the death penalty was filed more than 150 days before the earliest possible trial date.

Mr. Ball and Mr. Wilson are accused of leading the Congress Park Crew, a street gang that sold hundreds of kilograms of crack cocaine in Southeast, according to prosecutors.

The U.S. attorney’s office filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Mr. Ball and Mr. Wilson on Sept. 25.

That day, prosecutors also filed a motion asking Judge Roberts to reconsider his ruling barring the death penalty because of the lapsed deadline.

A hearing in the case has been set for Oct. 27.

“The Justice Department has not complied with my order,” Judge Roberts wrote in a four-page ruling.

The delay occurred “because we were giving additional and extra careful consideration to the defendants’ interests,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Glenn S. Leon and Ann H. Petalas wrote in a memo to Judge Roberts last week.

On Sept. 22, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales approved seeking the death penalty against Mr. Ball and Mr. Wilson but said prosecutors could not pursue capital punishment against co-defendant Dominic Samuels.

The three men are among more than a dozen defendants in a federal racketeering case centering on the Congress Park Crew.

Authorities say the street gang operated for more than a decade in Southeast, resorting to murder and armed robbery to protect its drug trade.

Until prosecutors filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Mr. Ball and Mr. Wilson, the only capital murder defendant at the D.C. Jail had been Larry Gooch.

Prosecutors have charged Mr. Gooch with five murders, saying he acted as the “enforcer” of the M Street Crew in Northeast for years.

Last week, prosecutors filed a pleading of more than 100 pages in which they justify seeking capital punishment in the case.

Mr. Gooch is expected to go to trial as early as January.

Two capital-punishment cases have proceeded to trial in the District since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

The District has banned capital punishment for D.C. Superior Court cases, but the death penalty can be sought in federal cases.

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