Four men convicted in a massive racketeering case were given the maximum sentence - 20 years - Friday.
One by one, Jarman L. Harold, 24; Charles D. Winters, 28; Kendric Dudley, 30; and Ronnie B. Overton Jr., 22, were led into Richmond County Superior Court to face Senior Judge Bernard J. Mulherin Sr., who presided over their two-month trial.
District Attorney Danny Craig asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence for each one. The men were convicted Nov. 30 of violating the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, taking part in a criminal enterprise, but the underlying crimes involved the execution-style slaying of two Augusta men.
The bodies of Ryan J. Singh, 21, and Manuel B. Arroyo, 19, were found in the trunk of a burned car July 24, 1997, in rural Warren County. One witness testified that Mr. Dudley told him that Mr. Singh and Mr. Arroyo were tied up and badly beaten before they were taken to Warren County and shot.
"I just can't imagine we have ever seen such a horrid, vile crime in this community," Mr. Craig said.
Two other men - Ronald Coleman Jr., 29, and Carlston W. Coleman, 31 - were also convicted of the RICO charge and charges filed in the June 21, 1998, robbery and kidnapping of Sam's Club manager David Holt, 45. Mr. Holt's body was found in the trunk of his burned car on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River.
Carlston Coleman is set to be sentenced Tuesday. Ronald Coleman is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 27.
While most of the trial and prosecution evidence concerned acts by the Colemans, who are not related, a convicted bank robber placed the other four men at Carlston Coleman's apartment July 23-24, 1997, as the group discussed killing Mr. Arroyo and Mr. Singh. That witness and others testified the motive was Ronald Coleman's and Mr. Winters' belief that the two had set them up to be robbed by Jamaican drug dealers in Atlanta.
In asking for the maximum sentence, Mr. Craig said Friday the defendants laughed after testimony about the injuries Mr. Arroyo and Mr. Singh suffered.
Defense attorney Sam Sibley denied Mr. Craig's accusation. While Mr. Harold had prior convictions, none were for violent crimes, the attorney said.
Mr. Winter's attorney, David Weber, also denied that the defendants laughed at such testimony. "Mr. Winters maintains his innocence," Mr. Weber said.
Mr. Dudley's attorney, George D. Bush, asked the judge to consider a sentence less than the maximum. Mr. Dudley had been steadily employed and had no prior convictions with the exception of driving without a license.
Last to face Judge Mulherin was Mr. Overton, who quietly answered his questions but offered no statement. Attorney Martin Puetz told the judge Mr. Overton maintains his innocence and that they were confident an appeal will succeed.
As he was led from the courtroom, Mr. Overton, like the other men before him, looked for family members in the courtroom.
"Hang in there, son. You're only going to be in there a minute," his mother, Christine Overton, called to him.
Each of the defendants has 30 days to file an appeal.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.