Keir Johnson, Lester Williams Reject Plea Offer in Jamal Coates Murder

Keir Johnson and Lester Williams turned down a government plea offer Thursday to second-degree murder while armed in connection with the shooting death of 21-year-old Jamal Coates.

The two men are charged with conspiracy, first-degree murder, assault with intent to kill, and several weapons charges in connection with Coates’ death, who was shot and killed in September 2010 while leaving a friend’s funeral.

Plea documents state that on August 20 prosecutors in the case sent a plea offer to Johnson and Williams which stated that if they pleaded guilty to second-degree murder while armed, for Coates’ death, Johnson could be sentenced to 12 to 24 years in prison; Williams could be sentenced to 13 to 25 years in prison.

The four co-defendant case also includes co-defendants Robert Givens and Marcellus Jackson. Charging documents allege that the men belong to a street gang known as “G-Rod,” and are responsible for five years of gang violence in Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights and the U Street corridor. Givens and Jackson are charged with the murder of Sean Robinson, an alleged rival gang member who was shot and killed a month before Coates.

Prosecutors in the case extended a similar plea offer to Givens and Jackson. The plea deals for all four men required that each of them plead guilty. If one man turned down the plea, guilty pleas from the other three would be rejected.

The plea offer was rejected by all four suspects Thursday.

Johnson seemed to be the only defendant who considered the plea offer, telling Judge Lynne Leibovitz that he would have accepted the plea offer if prosecutors would have allowed him to accept it as an individual, without the group contingency.

Williams and Givens wanted to cap the sentence between 15 and 18 years, while Jackson simply rejected any notion of the plea offer.

Johnson and Williams face the possibility of life in prison if convicted. Brandon Miller, a third suspect in Coates’ death remains held pending the grand jury.

The trial is scheduled to begin September 23.

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