- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 13, 2011

In letters to a sentencing judge, David Wilson’s friends and family describe a “loving, caring young man” who one Christmas surprised a little girl whose mother was strung out on drugs with a new bike and a warm coat.

But the judge who oversaw Wilson’s trial for the better part of a year said he didn’t see a trace of that side of Wilson day after day in federal court in Washington. Instead, U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts said he saw in Wilson a callous drug dealer, a killer with a “hot trigger finger” who kept people in the Congress Park section of Southeast Washington strung out on crack cocaine.

Sentencing Wilson to more than 40 years in prison Friday, Judge Roberts told Wilson that no matter how tough his life was growing up, he couldn’t blame his mother or father for his own decision to have two people killed.

“That’s on you,” Judge Roberts said. “There’s no pride in that; there’s no justification.”

Wilson, 34, is among the last of the defendants in a big federal drug case that began in 2005 and, at one point, had authorities seeking the death penalty for Wilson and a co-defendant. The case produced mixed results for the prosecution.

The judge threw out the motion for a death penalty before trial, and a jury acquitted Wilson on conspiracy and other charges, but it still found him guilty of aiding and abetting in the double slaying of Ronnie Middleton and his girlfriend, Sabrina Bradley, in August 1998 in Congress Park. Meanwhile, Wilson’s co-defendant, Antwuan Ball, was acquitted of murder and other charges, but convicted for a single drug transaction. Other defendants also were found guilty of various drug charges.

Wilson blamed Middleton for the 1993 killing of his friend Maurice Doleman, prosecutors said. In 1998, Wilson and two other men, Antonio Roberson and Antoine Drane, both now dead, saw Middleton in Congress Park sitting in his white Ford Bronco with Bradley, authorities said.

Middleton sat in the driver’s seat, and Bradley, a 26-year old mother of two, was beside him in the front passenger’s seat. They were parked along a street where, a few houses away, a baby sitter watched Bradley’s 4-year old daughter, records show. Then, at about 2 a.m., Aug. 17, 1998, the truck was “engulfed in a hail of gunfire from a .9mm semiautomatic,” a prosecutor told the jury at trial.

Though a third passenger in the back seat got away, Middleton and Bradley were hit with five bullets each. Alive and conscious when police arrived, they both died a few hours later. Authorities said Roberson was the triggerman, but they said Wilson got the gun and decided to go ahead with the killings.

However, Wilson’s defense team argued after the trial that they had uncovered eyewitness evidence showing that Wilson wasn’t responsible. In a motion for a new trial, the defense cited an affidavit from a D.C. Jail inmate who said he went to Congress Park to buy crack cocaine the night of the killings.

The inmate said Roberson convinced him to drive Roberson and another man to a white Ford truck, and that Roberson shot at the truck. But Judge Roberts said the affidavit came nearly 11 years after the shooting and more than a year and a half after the jury reached its verdict.

“That delay further reduces the affidavit’s credibility, since the timing suggests … a last-ditch effort for the defendant to escape punishment,” Judge Roberts wrote in a recent opinion denying the motion for a new trial.

At his sentencing, Wilson, in dark-rimmed glasses and a black-and-white striped inmate suit, declined to make a statement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Leon argued for life in prison or, if not, for Wilson to receive two 30-year sentences for the murders of Middleton and Bradley to run back to back. He also called Wilson a “prolific drug dealer.”

Defense attorney Jennifer Wicks said Wilson’s family, the D.C. school system and the juvenile justice system all had let him down. She also noted that her client had been “caged” at the D.C. Jail for nearly a decade, and so he should get some sort of sentencing consideration for the conditions of his incarceration.

In a sentencing memo, she said a decade at the D.C. Jail is like 20 years in a federal prison, citing “horrible sanitary conditions,” mold on walls, inadequate plumbing and poor food and medical care.

• Jim McElhatton can be reached at jmcelhatton@washingtontimes.com.

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