Judge Lynn Leibovitz sentenced Keir Johnson Friday to 54 years in prison, including 32 years for the shooting death of Jamal Coates.
“Taking lives is the most tragic thing you can do and it’s distressing to see Mr. Johnson, who could have done anything, in this position,” Leibovitz said before delivering her sentencing.
Johnson, along with three other men involved in the case were convicted of multiple criminal counts including conspiracy, murder, obstruction of justice, assault, and weapons charges.
Coates, 21 at the time of his death, was killed a daylight shooting four years ago while leaving a friend’s funeral near U Street Northwest. The encounter happened on a busy intersection with several eyewitnesses.
Jurors ultimately found Johnson guilty of first-degree premeditated murder in Coates’ death, as well as other weapons, conspiracy and gang offenses.
Evidence in the trial showed Johnson’s violent behavior, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Gee said, and that there is “no doubt that Johnson had a leadership role in the crew.”
Prosecutors argued at trial that the motive for all four defendants was their allegiance to the “G-Rod” crew and their attempt to gain power.
Defense Attorney Gregg Baron said it’s a situation where no one wins.
“It’s a case where there are no happy endings,” Baron said. “I believe if given a chance, he can contribute to society.”
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office is below:
Gang Member Sentenced to 54 Years in Prison
For Taking Part in Conspiracy
That Led to Murders, Shootings, and Other Violence
-One Murder Took Place Outside a Funeral in Northwest Washington-
WASHINGTON – Keir Johnson, 24, a member of a criminal street gang based at 14th and Girard Streets in Northwest Washington, was sentenced today to a 54-year prison term on murder and other charges stemming from a conspiracy to assault, kill, and threaten rivals and obstruct justice.
The sentence, in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, and Robert D. MacLean, Acting Chief of the U.S. Park Police.
Three co-defendants — Robert Givens, 21, Lester Williams, 26, and Marcellus Jackson, 26 – were sentenced in June 2014 to decades in prison for their roles in the crimes.
The men, all from Washington, D.C., were found guilty by a jury in March 2014, following nearly four months of trial. Johnson, Givens, and Williams were found guilty of murder and other offenses. Jackson was found guilty of murder, conspiracy, assault with a dangerous weapon, and related offenses.
The Honorable Lynn Leibovitz sentenced Johnson today. In June, she sentenced Givens to 30 years in prison; Williams to 47 ½ years of incarceration; and Jackson to 38 years.
The 14th and Girard gang, also known as G-Rod, 1-4, and the Cut Crew, was centered in the areas of 14th and Girard and 14th and Fairmont Streets NW. The group was engaged in a longstanding conflict with rival crews, especially ones that were based in the areas of 17th and Euclid Streets NW and the 600 block of Morton Street NW. The gang’s victims included Sean Robinson, 18, who was killed in the parking lot of a school in August 2010, and Jamal Coates, 21, who was killed following a funeral in September 2010.
Givens was found guilty of second-degree murder while armed in the slaying of Mr. Robinson, as well as a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon involving a second victim shot at the scene. He also was found guilty of conspiracy, firearms offenses, and charges that he committed the crimes for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Johnson and Williams were each found guilty of first-degree murder while armed in the killing of Mr. Coates. They also were found guilty of assault with intent to kill in the shooting of another individual in that attack, as well as assault with a dangerous weapon for firing upon a third person that day. Johnson and Williams also were found guilty of conspiracy, firearms offenses, and charges that they committed the crimes for the benefit of a criminal street gang. Finally, Johnson also was found guilty of a charge of assault with intent to kill while armed stemming from a separate attack in June 2010 in which a man was wounded.
In addition to conspiracy, Jackson was found guilty of second-degree murder in the slaying of Mr. Coates, assault with a dangerous weapon involving an attack against one of the individuals with Mr. Coates, and charges that he committed the offenses for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
According to the government’s evidence, the shootings resulted from a longstanding conflict with rival crews. The government presented evidence of these and other crimes:
June 27, 2010: Johnson chased, shot, and attempted to kill a rival crew member in the parking lot of a gas station in the 3400 block of Georgia Avenue NW.
Aug. 11, 2010: Givens and others committed the murder of Mr. Robinson, who lived in the area of 17th and Euclid Streets, as well as the shooting of two 14-year-olds who were with him while they stood together in the parking lot of a school in the 2600 block of Mozart Street NW.
Sept. 28, 2010: Johnson and Williams committed the murder of Mr. Coates, a rival crew member, near 13th and U Streets NW, during the funeral procession for a young female with family ties to the rival crew. In addition to shooting Mr. Coates, Williams and Johnson shot a second person in the attack and fired upon a third individual. Jackson provided assistance to Johnson and Williams.
After the funeral shooting, the defendants took many steps to attempt to obstruct justice and avoid prosecution, such as trying to find and locate witnesses and in the case of two of the defendants, fleeing to North Carolina.
The men were indicted in December 2011, following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Park Police, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Two other members of the crew earlier pled guilty to charges stemming from their violent conduct.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen, MPD Chief Lanier, and Acting U.S. Park Police Chief MacLean thanked those who investigated the case from the MPD, the Park Police, and the DEA. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the U.S. Marshals Service; the FBI/MPD Safe Streets Task Force; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the FBI Cellular Analysis Survey Team; the FBI Digital Forensic and Analysis Section; the U.S. Secret Service Forensic Sciences Division; the District of Columbia Department of Corrections Office of Investigative Services; the District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences; the Washington D.C./Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area; the Alexandria, Va. Police Department; the Marlboro County, S.C. Sherriff’s Office, and the Miami-Dade County State’s Attorney’s Office. They also acknowledged the assistance of Bruce Budowle, PhD, executive director of the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Institute of Investigative Genetics.
They expressed appreciation for the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sharad Khandelwal and Joseph P. Cooney, who helped secure the indictment; Assistant U.S. Attorney Kacie Weston, who assisted with trial preparation; Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chrisellen Kolb and David Goodhand who assisted with legal analysis; and Michael Ambrosino, Special Counsel for DNA and Forensic Evidence Litigation. In addition, they acknowledged the work of Legal Assistants Kendra Johnson, Marian Russell, Sharon Newman, Kwasi Fields, Philip Aronson, and Benjamin Kagan-Guthrie; former Intelligence Analyst Lawrence Grasso; Intelligence Analyst Zachary McMenamin; Information Technology Specialist Leif Hickling; Victim/Witness Security Specialists Michael Hailey, M. Laverne Forrest, Debra Cannon, Tanya Via, and Katina Adams; Victim/Witness Advocate Marcia Rinker; and Criminal Investigators Durand Odom, Tommy Miller, Mark Crawford, and Christopher Brophy.
Finally, they expressed appreciation for the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd Gee, Emily Miller, Laura Bach, and Deborah Sines, who prosecuted the case.