Keir Johnson and Lester Williams Plead Not Guilty to Murder of Jamal Coates

Keir Johnson and Lester Williams both pleaded not guilty today at their arraignment on charges of conspiracy, first-degree murder, assault with intent to kill and several weapons charges.

Johnson and Jackson were among seven men named in an 80 count indictment that detailed five years of gang violence in Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights and the U Street corridor. Among the crimes charged in the indictment is a murder charge in connection with the shooting death of Jamal Coates.

A superceding indictment, on which they were arraigned Friday, added 36 counts.

The indictment alleges that the men were part of criminal operations of a street gang known as G-Rod, whose main objective “was to control for its exclusive use, criminal and otherwise, the area centering on the 1400 block of Girard St. N.W. and the 1400 block of Fairmont St. N.W., and including the surrounding territory.”

Among other crimes, the crew is suspected of three homicides, including that of Jamal Coates, who was shot and killed while leaving a friend’s funeral in the U Street corridor. Johnson and Williams are alleged to have murdered Coates in September 2010 for his affiliation with a rival crew.

At the arraignment Friday, Assistant United States Attorney Todd Gee offered a plea deal to all the suspects named int the indictment. Gee said that if each and every one of them were to plead guilty to one count of second-degree murder while armed, all other charges would be dismissed.

Accepting the plea would significantly shorten the potential prison terms allowing most of the defendants out of prison in their early forties.

If found guilty of the alleged crimes at trial, the suspects could be sentenced to life in prison.

The offer was verbally rejected by all six defendants.

Trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 4, 2013.

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