D.C. residents are being given a chance to share their thoughts on whether convicted drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III should receive an early release from prison. (Courtesy of NBC Washington)
D.C. residents are being given a chance to share their thoughts on whether convicted drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III should receive an early release from prison. (Courtesy of NBC Washington)

District residents have varying views on what they think should happen to a notorious drug kingpin who has the chance to have his life sentence reduced and could ultimately return to the city.

Rayful Edmond III, who ran a major cocaine operation in the District in the 1980s, has been serving a life sentence without parole since 1990, when he was convicted of federal drug distribution charges. On May 29, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia offered Edmond the chance to have his sentence reduced because of his extensive cooperation with federal authorities providing information on illegal drug activity and other types of crimes.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan has tapped the D.C. Office of the Attorney General (OAG), to get feedback from District residents on what should happen to Edmond.

The OAG has held two listening sessions, one on June 13 at the Old Council Chambers in Northwest and the other on June 15 at Martha’s Table in Southeast. On June 15, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D) listened carefully to residents who commented on what should be Edmond’s fate.

“I grew up around the time that Edmond enterprise was operating,” Cheryl Tracy said. “I knew his family because we went to the same elementary school. I lost so many friends at that time. Our community fell apart because of the Edmond empire.”

Tracy said Edmond should “stay incarcerated” but said his family needs to the chance to get to know him. However, she pointed out that Edmond “didn’t go overseas to get those drugs” and that he wasn’t alone in creating the District’s crack cocaine epidemic that ravaged the city in the 1980s.

Clarence Miles, a returning citizen, acknowledged that he participated in the District’s illegal drug culture and said possibly releasing Edmond is “a touchy situation.”

“I had a lot of friends who passed away at that time,” Miles said. “However, Rayful Edmond isn’t the only person to do bad. I think he needs a second chance and should be released but not here in D.C.”

Miles also called for leniency for Tony Lewis, a cohort of Edmond also serving a life sentence. His son, Tony Lewis Jr., has emerged as a well-regarded activist for children with incarcerated parents.

Racine told the gathering earlier that they didn’t need to identify themselves to give their viewpoint on Edmond. One unidentified man echoed Miles’ point to “free Tony Lewis” and in an expletive-laced rant, said selling drugs “was the way D.C. was back then and that was the environment.”

“When in Rome, do what the Romans do,” the man said.

But Tim Purdy, who lives on Orleans Place NE, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office made a mistake in considering Edmond’s release in the first place.

Purdy, who said he lives next to Edmond’s sister, claimed “strange” things began happening when she moved in three years ago.

“It was a suspicious purchase,” Purdy said. “They bought the house for half of its asking price, which was unusual. There has been nothing but problems since.

“I did some research and found out that Edmond’s sister got the house,” he said. “Where do you think Rayful Edmond is going to stay if he gets released?

“Rayful Edmond is a career criminal,” Purdy said. “He isn’t going to be an art teacher if he’s released, and he shouldn’t be.”

In response, the unidentified man who testified shouted at Purdy, “Move, then!”

“We don’t need any more gentrification,” the man said.

Sabrina Green testified on June 13 about Edmond and spoke again at Martha’s Table.

“The judge should not reduce the sentence of Rayful Edmond,” she said. “The U.S. Attorney should offer the same deal to the others that they are offering him. I also believe that if he is released, he should not return to the District.”

The final community forum will take place on June 29 from 1-3 p.m. at the Frank D. Reeves Center in Northwest. Residents who want to weigh in on Edmond’s fate can go to www.rayfuledmondfeedback.com and give their views as well as calling 202-727-3400 to speak directly with a representative of the OAG.

Other methods include writing the OAG’s office in care of “Rayful Edmond Case.” An amicus curiae brief will be submitted to Sullivan on Aug. 30 by the OAG’s office summarizing residents’ views.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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