Man convicted of Hanafi Muslim takeover of DC buildings released

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Maurice Williams was just 24 years old, working as a news reporter for Howard University’s WHUR-FM radio, when he was shot dead in 1977 during a takeover of a city government by a dozen Hanafi Muslims.

A judge later sentenced his gunman, Abdul Muzikir, to more than seven decades behind bars, telling him the sentence meant “you will die in prison”.

But in April, Muzikir, now 67, was released from prison as part of an effort to release prisoners. who have served at least 20 years in prison are determined not to pose a threat to society and, because of their age or health, are particularly susceptible to the pandemic.

Muzikir’s release — who came over a federal prosecutor’s objection — brought back memories of a dark chapter in DC history when a dozen Hanafi Muslims violently stormed government property and took hostages. They hoped, authorities have said, to force officials to extradite five people convicted of the murder of seven relatives of Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, the leader of the plot.

Williams became one of the few working journalists to be murdered in the country’s capital. The late Marion Barry – then a councilor who would later become mayor – was also shot and wounded.

In court documents and interviews, some of the victims’ relatives said they were happy with Muzikir’s release – if he really no longer posed a threat.

“He’s served his time, why don’t you let him live the rest of his life,” Williams’ brother, Myron Williams, said in a recent interview with The Washington Post. “He accomplished a lot while he was in prison. It’s time.”

Muzikir, who now lives with his family in Silver Spring, Maryland, according to court records, declined to comment through his attorney, Jon Anderson, of the district’s Public Defender Service.

A total of 149 hostages were held in three buildings in the city center between 9 and 11 March. in the 1600 block of Rhode Island Ave. NW and the Islamic Center, in the 2500 block of Massachusetts Avenue NW.

Myron Williams said he believed Muzikir, aka Marquette Anthony Hall, and the other co-defendants had been “brainwashed” by Khaalis. “He was only 22 then and it was a different time in our country then,” he said.

Barry’s widow, Cora Masters Barry, wrote in a letter to the judge that she too did not oppose Muzikir’s release. “I hope with the years he has left they will be fruitful. That’s all,” she said in a brief interview with The Washington Post.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, DC Superior Court judges have granted 203 people compassionate release, according to court data. Another 182 had pending petitions as of May 31, while 547 had their petitions rejected, according to the data. Concerns about covid-19 were raised in a majority of petitions.

A majority of Muzikir’s co-defendants were sentenced to decades in prison, which in fact was life sentences. Muzikir was sentenced to 77 years to life, according to prosecutors. All of the co-defendants have either died in prison or have been released. Muzikir’s lawyer wrote.

US Assistant Attorney Pamela S. Satterfield opposed Muzikir’s release. In a 17-page petition to Judge Peter A. Krauthamer, she argued that Muzikir’s petition should be: refused because, she wrote, he didn’t show up no regrets for his involvement in the takeover, nor for killing Williams.

Satterfield noted that Muzikir was the “sole hostage taker” who fired his weapon, shot Williams in the chest at close range and wounded three others. hostages. “The gravity of his crimes is serious and the consequences of possible recidivism are great,” Satterfield wrote.

In her court filing, Satterfield wrote that: two relatives of Muzikir’s victims opposed his release, although one of them told The Post he wouldn’t.

Satterfield included in her submission a quote from Stephen Pierce, the son of Robert Pierce, who was a legal intern at the district office when Muzikir shot him in the back. Robert Pierce was paralyzed in his legs and on one side of his body; his son said he died about 25 years after the attack.

“A violent offender who does not express remorse for his crimes, let alone offer a sincere apology to his victims, appears to be a poor candidate for parole,” wrote Stephen Pierce, according to the prosecution’s file.

But in an interview, Pierce said he had no objection to Muzikir’s release despite those concerns.

Satterfield said in an email that she interpreted Pierce’s words as an objection.

Satterfield also wrote that the stepdaughter of another person who was shot – Mack Wesley Cantrell, who worked as a security guard at the county building – strongly opposed Muzikir’s release. Cantrell was shot in the face and later died of a heart attack. His stepdaughter, Satterfield wrote, said Muzikir “took the life of a good man who will never know his grandchildren and niece and nephews.”

“He was protecting people in the district building. An (sic) you went there and shot him,” wrote the stepdaughter, according to Satterfield’s court file, which did not mention the woman’s name. “He should stay in prison where other people are safe from him.”

Muzikir’s lawyer encouraged the judge to base his ruling on Muzikir’s nearly flawless criminal record. The lawyer wrote: musician had committed only one disciplinary offense during his 44 years incarceration, and that was for a nonviolent offense: failing to remove a clothesline hanging in his cell when instructed to do so. Muzikir also earned his associate’s degree and taught graphic arts in the prison’s print shop, his lawyer wrote.

In his ruling, Krauthamer wrote that whether Muzikir repented “had no bearing on his present or future dangerousness,” and that nowhere in the district’s compassionate parole statute was a provision of remorse.

Krauthamer wrote that Muzikir “would pose no danger” if released and granted his release.

Razzan Nakhlawi contributed to this report.

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