Nico Griffin charged with endangering his daughter Nyiah Courtney

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Nico Griffin’s lawyer says he is a victim of DC gun violence, seriously injured by the same drive-by shooter who injured his fiancée and killed his 6-year-old daughter on July 16, 2021.

Federal prosecutors say Griffin is part of the problem, and partly responsible for his daughter’s death, because he was involved in the violent drug trade on the street in Southeast Washington where the shooting took place.

“I don’t understand what a kid was doing in that location at 11 p.m.,” U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich said Wednesday before sentenced Griffin to 37 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. “That’s a choice he made, to use his family.”

But she said she was “no longer punishing him for” an “excruciatingly painful loss.” She gave Griffin a sentence that topped federal guidelines, she said, based on the fact that he had 18 pistol bullets in his pocket at the time of his arrest.

Speaking briefly and emotionally in federal court in Washington, Griffin apologized to his fiancée and their surviving 11-year-old daughter. “I need a second chance,” he said.

The conviction for Griffin came nearly a year after the high-profile murder of 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney in Congress Heights last year drew widespread attention over the rising murder rate in DC. Her fatal shooting at the time occurred amid a wave of gunfire in the district, including one shooting outside a Nationals game and another along 14th Street NW near Logan Circle, sparking angry words from city leaders. A year later, city leaders are facing a similar increase in gun violence. Last weekend, an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old were both shot and killed.

At funeral for 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney, call to end ‘bloody city’

Prosecutors had asked for jail time every 37 months, in part because of Nyiah’s death. Federal authorities claimed that Griffin was part of the MLK Crew and that the gang was the target of the drive-by shooting that killed his daughter. Another co-conspirator was shot at the same location on Martin Luther King Jr. avenue the day before Nyiah died.

“This was a violent drug trafficking organization” on “an open-air drug market,” US assistant attorney David Henek said in court. “I would say her death was completely preventable. … This is endangering children at the very least.”

The DC Police Department and the FBI launched a joint investigation into the MLK Crew in January 2021; Griffin has made three crack sales to undercover cops. Friedrich said she assumed the investigation “probably would have taken longer” had it not been for the deadly shooting.

Defense attorney Clark U. Fleckinger II insisted Griffin was unaware of the recent violence on the street near where he and his fiancée, Dominique Courtney, had both grown up. The attorney stressed there was no evidence that Griffin was personally involved in gang violence, describing him in a criminal memorandum as a “very low-level street worker” who used crack to deal with untreated depression.

Courtney had taken their two daughters to visit a friend nearby and met Griffin to go home together when the shooting began, Fleckinger said.

“This is their neighborhood,” Fleckinger told the court. “He is a victim of his environment.”

Henek refuted in his own file that Griffin, who appeared in music videos glorifying guns, money and drugs, “made a significant contribution to the decline of his own community.”

In a letter to the court, Griffin’s cousin said Courtney is now trying to move to a safer neighborhood. She added that Griffin had lost two brothers to gun violence and his mother to a heroin overdose. His “whole life is filled with trauma,” she wrote.

After Nyiah .’s Deadly ShootingDC Police Chief Robert J. Contee III held up a photo of her during a news conference and said he was “heartbroken” by the violent loss of a young girl who had braided her hair to match her grandmother and had been looking forward to seeing her. to go to first grade.

Police arrested 22-year-old Marktwan Hargraves of Maryland and charged him with second-degree murder while armed. He is being held and has a hearing in DC Superior Court on August 5.

Fourteen children have been killed in murders in the district since Nyiah’s death.

In a letter to the court, Griffin’s 11-year-old daughter, Nakyiah, wrote that she hadn’t been able to see her father since her sister’s death; he was in prison when Nyiah was buried.

“I miss my father and my sister,” she wrote. “I’m just praying… we can all visit my sister on her grave.”

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