- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

The attorney for a 53-year-old D.C. public school teacher facing life in prison for her role in a multistate drug-trafficking ring said yesterday that he plans appeal the case and has “every reason to believe” that LaNora Ali will be vindicated.

Ali was convicted last week in federal court with five others in a drug-trafficking ring after a 10-week trial before a federal jury in Greenbelt.

She had taught last year at Shadd Elementary School in Southeast, where she earned about $87,000 in salary and benefits, according to pay records. She had taught computer science.

U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein announced the convictions Friday, saying the case “resulted in shutting down a gang that brought cocaine, crack and illegal guns into the community.”

Prosecutors said Ali’s role involved buying and selling cocaine and crack, and helping co-defendant Paulette Martin, 59, of Takoma Park, Md., move her drug business to a performing arts school in Northeast.

They identified the school as Paula’s School for the Performing Arts in the 5500 block of South Dakota Avenue Northeast.

The school is no longer at the location and has been replaced by a storefront church. There is no public phone listing available, and the school’s corporate charter has been revoked, city records show.

Ali faces life in prison on drug-conspiracy charges when sentenced in December before U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus, authorities said.

Ali’s attorney, Harry McNett, yesterday disputed the prosecutors’ statements concerning his client’s role in the drug ring.

“There was no credible evidence presented that Miss Ali ever sold drugs to anyone, and the jury did not find that she did,” Mr. McNett said. “At the appropriate time, Miss Ali’s conviction will be appealed. I have every reason to believe that she will be vindicated.”

It was not clear yesterday whether Ali continued to teach after her indictment. D.C. school officials could not be reached for comment. Ali is being held pending sentencing.

Prosecutors said they have won convictions against 27 persons in the drug investigation, including one last week against Reece Coleman Whiting, 64, of Baltimore.

He is a convicted heroin smuggler who holds a law degree and served as a legal adviser, prosecutors said.

In addition to Martin, Ali and Whiting, prosecutors last week announced convictions on drug charges for Lavon Dobie, 46, of the District; Derrek Bynum, 34, of Hyattsville and Learley R. Goodwin, 63, of Hyattsville.



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