On December 20, 2003 all four men were wounded by gunfire inside of the Southeast Washington prison. Originally, it was believed that the shootings resulted from a murder-for-hire contract placed on the men.
"There was a hit put out, and that was the reason for what went down in the jail," said defense attorney Gregory Lattimer.
Lattimer argued that the shooting was retaliation for a dispute resulting from drugs and cell phones being smuggled into the prison. The gun itself was smuggled in via a package tossed onto a ledge near the recreation yard.
By the time the trial began in September 2005, however, prosecutors were telling jurors a different story. According to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emory V. Cole and Thomas A. Gillice, the four prisoners contrived a scheme to profit from the lax security and rampant violence of the prison.
Shawn Gray supposedly masterminded the scheme in which the four men would inflict each other with gunshot wounds and eventually sue the District for damages. According to the indictment, Gray purportedly postponed the plans several times, once because he did not want the inmates to go without their [weekly] supplies, from the lockdown that would follow the shooting.
Prosecutors said that Jefferson tried to back out of the plan but Gray and Johnson shot him anyway. The jury found the two not guilty on that charge. None of the prisoners sustained serious wounds from the gunfire. The men were also acquitted of firearm and contraband charges.
Gray and Robinson were convicted of conspiracy and four weapons charges. On March 23, 2006, Gray was sentenced to 72 months in prison. On January 26, 2006, Johnson was sentenced to 69 months in prison.
Lattimer said the scenario created by the prosecutors was ridiculous and was made believable only because of key evidentiary rulings against the defense and the jury's willingness to believe the worst about already incarcerated prisoners. For their part, Robinson and Jefferson testified on behalf of the government.
It was an unfair verdict, he said.
Interestingly, over the years PLN has reported on these gun smuggling schemes on a semi regular basis in New York, Georgia and Illinois where prisoners purport to shoot themselves and then file a lawsuit. In its extensive coverage of prison and jail litigation PLN has yet to discover a single successful gunshot suit by a prisoner, except when it is a prison or jail employee doing the shooting.
Source: Washington Post
NOTE: The original version of this article included a factual error, in which we reported that Johnson and Jefferson had testified against their co-defendants. That was incorrect; according to the Washington Post, Jefferson and Robinson cooperated with prosecutors in this case. PLN regrets the error and wants to set the record straight.
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