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Guilty plea in mass DC shooting

Washington Post editors

One of the five men arrested in connection with a series of fatal shootings last month that left five people dead --including a mass drive-by shooting -- pleaded guilty Thursday to five counts of second-degree murder while armed and is cooperating with police investigators in one of the deadliest outbreaks of violence in the city in years.

Under increased security in a D.C. Superior courtroom, Nathaniel Simms, 26, told Judge Michael L. Rankin that he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors by giving a detailed account of the fatal shootings that culminated in the March 30 drive-by that killed three people dead and injured six others as they stood outside an apartment building in the 4000 block of S. Capitol Street SE.

Five men, including Simms, were charged with multiple counts of first-degree, premeditated murder in the shootings. Also charged in the attacks were Orlando Carter, 20, Robert Bost, 22, Jeffrey D. Best, 21, and Lamar Williams, 22. The four other suspects have pleaded not guilty in earlier hearings.

But Simms is the first to cooperate with police and provide names and details of the accounts in exchange for lesser charges.

Simms told police that he used an AK-47 style assault rifle and pointed it outside the window of a rented minivan at people who had gathered outside the South Capitol Street apartment building after attending the funeral of Jordan Howe, 20.

In addition to the drive-by, Simms admitted to being present at the March 22 shooting of Howe in the 1300 block of Alabama Ave SE. That shooting was over a missing bracelet belonging to Carter’s younger brother, Sanquan, authorities said. Simms also admitted to being in the same minivan moments before the drive-by when Tavon Nelson, 17, was killed.

That shooting occurred about five minutes before the men drove the rented minivan down South Capitol Street and began shooting at a group of people who had just attended Howe’s funeral, police said. DaVaughn Boyd, 18, William Jones III, 19, and Brishell Jones, 16, all died in the attack.

“I accept the charges,” the slightly built Simms said softly, standing next to his court-appointed attorney James Williams. Williams told Rankin that his client has been moved to a separate facility at the D.C. jail, and asked Rankin to allow Simms to wear a hood, so people in the courtroom gallery could not identify him during the hearing. Rankin denied that request.

Simms faces a minimum sentence of five years in prison for each murder charge to a maximum of life in prison. He also faces a maximum of 30 years for two counts of conspiracy to commit murder. If Simms’s testimony against his four friends is found to be credible, prosecutors could petition Rankin for a lesser sentence.

The plea bargain angered many family members of the victims who filled up several rows of the courtroom. “I can’t understand how you can admit to shooting an AK-47 at people and it not be first-degree murder,” said Nardyne Jefferies, mother of the youngest shooting victim. “That’s why there are so many murderers walking the streets now.”
Another hearing is scheduled for Friday for Best, Bost and Williams.

-- Keith L. Alexander

By Washington Post editors  |  April 29, 2010; 4:25 PM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse , Homicide , Keith L. Alexander , The District  
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Now can we talk about him?

Posted by: uncivil | April 29, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Nardyne Jefferies you should have paid attention in high school when they taught the court system. You should be happy that someone is going to testify against the other thugs in that car. Without his testimony everyone could walk free.

Posted by: MKadyman | April 29, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

How can you take a plea deal from the person who actually shot the people in exchange for testimony against the others?

This is a prime example of what's wrong with the justice system in the District. Prosecutors place no value on the lives of Black people. You can bet they would never have accepted a plea if the victims had been white.

The other defendants are going to point to the fact that Simms is the person who actually did the shootings and their lawyers are going to ask how can the jury convict their clients of first degree murder when the person who actually committed the killings isn't being tried for first degree murder?

Posted by: Jimof1913 | April 29, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Even though the canary is singing, he'll still be Big Bubba's boy in the cell!!

Posted by: rpcv84 | April 29, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Could not have said it any better Jimof1913. And if any of those murderers are convicted they will all be able to get back on appeal!!

Posted by: merrimac238 | April 29, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately everyone on this blog who lives in DC will probably still wind up voting for the likes of Mendleson and Gray who are notoriously weak on crime. You all reap what you sew.

This is the most backwards plea deal I have ever heard of. In any case you always want the main guy i.e. the shooter. All the other guys will walk and just say "I told him not to shoot but he had a gun. What could I do?"

Just another case of the USAO in D.C. taking the easy road.

Posted by: lottaaction | April 29, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

To the prosecutors, it ain't a "justice" system, it's a job. A job where you don't get retained, let alone promoted, unless you get convictions. They don't get any points for "justice", only convictions.

Which is why 90% of Federal convictions come from plea deals, not jury trials. It's just easier that way. Not always fair and just, but ALWAYS easier.

Posted by: 12008N1 | April 30, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

MKadyman - perhaps you will pay attention and be more compassionate when it is your family member let alone your only child that is taken away from you. perhaps they could have offered him life w/o parole over death, to get him to talk?? but this sentence is ridiculous. this plea should have never been offered. they have the evidence. he should fry with the rest of these animals. in the meantime, keep the name nardyne jefferies out of your conversation. show some respect.

Posted by: livelafflove | April 30, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I can understand that the families of those killed don't like the fact that the shooter plea bargained down to second degree, but it ultimately doesn't matter, because he is either going to get life in prison--and I mean life--or a sentence where he has the possibility of parole after doing about 50 years. No judge is going to hand him less, or risk that he could be back on the street before he's an old man.

Posted by: jhpurdy | April 30, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Simms will have to serve all his time in isolation. It doesn't matter where he goes to prison; if he ever comes in contact w/ the general population, he'll be killed, post-haste.

Posted by: nonsensical2001 | April 30, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Alexander you ought to know the solution; kids mess up, the state needs to take care of them. Build bigger prisons for the parent(s) and the punks. One big babysitter.

Posted by: mick6 | April 30, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

This the dude that pulled the trigger? And y'all letting him snitch to get reduced time when y'all don't need help to prosecute??? WTF is up with this B.S.????

Wow....Just Wow...

RIP Bri....

Posted by: 4thFloor | April 30, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

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