WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today submitted a friend-of-the-court brief reflecting the divided opinions and varied concerns of District of Columbia community members regarding a potential sentence reduction for convicted drug trafficker Rayful Edmond. The amicus brief, filed in U.S. v. Rayful Edmond III before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, summarizes input provided by 510 community members to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) at community forums, online, by mail, and by phone. The Honorable Judge Emmet G. Sullivan appointed OAG to gather and represent the public’s views as the Court considers a request by the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) to potentially reduce Edmond’s life sentence. The brief does not adopt a position but instead reflects the differing views of those who were impacted by Edmond’s actions. This is the first time OAG has been asked by a federal court to represent the community’s views in an adult criminal matter in which it does not have prosecutorial authority.
“We are grateful to Judge Sullivan for entrusting the Office of the Attorney General with the responsibility and opportunity to assist the Court and give District residents a voice in this critical case,” said AG Racine. “Too often, the District’s lack of control over our adult criminal justice system means that residents lack a voice in decisions that profoundly impact our community, but in this case, they are being heard. Thank you to all the community members who participated in this process, attended forums, sent comments, or called my office and provided their thoughtful and passionate opinions about this case. We hope this input will be informative and help guide the Court in its decision-making.”
Rayful Edmond ran a cocaine ring in the District in the 1980s. The USAO prosecuted Edmond and he was convicted in federal court on charges of drug distribution, conspiracy, and other crimes in 1990. He is currently serving a life sentence without parole. Now, the USAO is asking a federal court to reduce that sentence because Edmond has cooperated with federal authorities since the late 1990s. In considering the USAO’s motion, Judge Sullivan has asked to hear from those who were affected by Edmond’s actions. On May 24, 2019, Judge Sullivan appointed OAG as amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) to obtain the community’s views on Edmond’s resentencing.
OAG’s Role in Gathering Community Feedback
The Attorney General is the District’s chief legal officer and its only independent, elected prosecutor. OAG enforces the law, defends and provides legal advice to District government agencies, and stands up for the interests of District residents. Under Home Rule, OAG prosecutes all juvenile crimes and certain adult misdemeanors, but the federally appointed USAO prosecutes all other crimes. The District is the only place in the United States where the USAO prosecutes local crimes in addition federal crimes.
OAG has experience in gathering community feedback on public safety issues in a way that is fair and transparent. This informed AG Racine’s broad and varied approach to obtaining the community’s input about whether to reduce Edmond’s sentence. Over the course of several months, OAG worked to create and publicize multiple channels for residents to submit comments, creating a website with a questionnaire and designating an email address, telephone number, and street address to facilitate submissions. OAG also held three in-person community forums across the city in June where participants could speak or submit written comments and held two focus groups to facilitate input from community leaders in July.
Summary of Court Brief
The community’s overall opinion was sharply divided between those who oppose a sentence reduction and those who support it. Some thought that Edmond’s cooperation with the federal government merited leniency, while others viewed cooperation as insufficient. Certain commenters believed that Edmond was uniquely responsible for the crack epidemic in the District, while others viewed him as a victim of the racial disparities that plague the criminal justice system. Some believed that he had served enough time, and others disagreed. Whether citing the potential impact on District youth, religious beliefs, or other factors, community members weighed each criterion differently—some as advocating for a reduced sentence, and others as counseling caution. The views and stories of community members shed light on the effect that Mr. Edmond has had—and might have in the future—on District residents.
The brief is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-08/Rayful-Edmond-Amicus-Brief.pdf
The Court will consider numerous factors to make a decision on the USAO’s motion to reduce Edmond’s sentence, including the facts of his underlying convictions, the original sentencing memorandum, information about the extent of Edmond’s cooperation with federal authorities and his conduct while incarcerated, as well as the views of District residents.