The federal witness protection program isn’t perfect. Sometimes it lets murderous criminals go free with little oversight, giving them the chance to go on unhinged killing sprees, which happened when Marion Albert Pruett was put in the program in 1979. Sometimes the protected criminal doesn’t like the cushy straight life and bails on the feds only to be arrested again on drug charges, as in the case of Mafia hitman Sammy “The Bull” Gravano.
While those cases appear to have given far too much leeway to the dangerous criminals-turned-state witnesses, other cases reveal the glaring inconsistencies in the program. One such case is that of 1980s Washington D.C. drug kingpin Rayful Edmond, whom The Infographics Show describes as “one witness protection resident you don’t need to worry about being right next door.” That’s because while Edmond cooperated with the government on dozens of cases, he wasn’t given his freedom, a new identity, and some startup cash like others who have done the same.
Edmond rose to power in D.C’s criminal underworld during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. His ruthless grip on power, which he fought violently to protect, fueled the burgeoning addiction and crime in the nation’s capital, earning it the ignominious nickname “Murder Capital of the United States.” Still, the witness protection program has let several extremely violent criminals go free into society, so why is Edmond still locked up to this day? Let’s take a look at his case and see.
Rayful Edmond continues to appeal for his freedom
Much of Edmond’s case is shrouded in mystery. Even the reason he decided to cooperate with the government is not known to the public. And after he turned state’s evidence, he wasn’t released into anonymity, but was transferred to a different top secret facility, where he has been ever since. But he continued to appeal for the freedom he feels he deserves for the help he gave the government, and in February 2021, The Washington Post reported that a D.C. judge reduced his life sentence to 20 years. Edmond had been in prison for almost 32 years at the time, but the ruling still didn’t ensure his freedom. He still had a 30-year sentence pending in Pennsylvania for charges of dealing drugs in a federal prison in the state.
The information Edmond gave authorities from 1997 to 2014 helped them bring in and convict over 100 drug dealers. He also helped with undercover operations and testified in drug and homicide trials. He and his lawyers aren’t the only ones who feel he should finally receive the freedom he was promised, but public opinion does appear to be split. A citywide poll conducted in 2019 found that respondents were split almost exactly down the middle over whether or not to finally release Rayful Edmond from prison.
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