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Sometimes a maximum sentence of life in prison is a good thing. Six co-defendants from the Congress Park Crew face 92 felony drug and murder charges in a trial set to begin this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, but they possibly got a lucky break when Judge Richard Roberts barred prosecutors from seeking the death penalty. Roberts’ decision came after he told prosecutors to let him know by Sept. 15 if they planned to seek the death penalty. That day, prosecutors asked for more time because Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who must approve federal death-penalty cases, hadn’t had time to review the case, in part because of the events commemorating the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. His deputy’s office also requested more information from prosecutors. The explanations didn’t sit well with Roberts. “The status report sets forth no good cause why the Attorney General reached no decision during the lengthy period allowed for reaching one,” Roberts wrote. Prosecutors filed the case in March 2005 and soon after indicated they might seek the death penalty. In April 2006, Roberts gave them five months to make up their minds. Prosecutors appealed Roberts’ order, but to no avail, so the trial, expected to last six months, will go forward with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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