Originally created 12/28/01

Coleman gets two life terms plus 65 years



Ronald Coleman Jr., the last of the racketeering defendants and suspected killer of Sam's Club Manager David Holt, received the maximum sentence Thursday.

Senior Judge Bernard J. Mulherin Sr., who presided over the two-month Richmond County Superior Court trial, sentenced Mr. Coleman, 29, to two consecutive life sentences plus 65 years in prison.

"Ronald Coleman is the ringleader of a conspiracy for which the jury found him guilty," said Assistant District Attorney Patricia Johnson. She said Mr. Coleman was directly responsible for three murders and numerous crimes - all motivated by greed.

Mr. Coleman and Carlston W. Coleman, who are not related, were convicted Nov. 30 of kidnapping, armed robbery, burglary, hijacking a motor vehicle and a weapons charge in the June 21, 1998, robbery and abduction of Mr. Holt, 45.

The two Colemans and four others - Charles D. Winters, Kendric Dudley, Ronnie B. Overton Jr. and Jarman L. Harold - were also convicted of violating the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law.

Among the underlying crimes in the RICO charge was the July 24, 1997, conspiracy to kill Ryan J. Singh, 21, and Manuel B. Arroyo, 19. Their bodies were found in the trunk of a burned car in rural Warren County.

Ronald Coleman's father attended the Thursday hearing.

"I think the whole thing was a joke," the senior Mr. Coleman said of the trial. The only evidence was testimony of two convicted felons who had made deals with the state, he said.

Defense attorney Robert Citronberg said Thursday that he expected to learn within a week whether the Coleman family will hire him to appeal Ronald Coleman's convictions. The case is replete with errors, from the judge's pretrial ruling not to separate the Holt case from the RICO charge, to the prosecution's closing statement, which included information not entered into evidence, Mr. Citronberg said.

District Attorney Danny Craig scoffed at those arguments, saying the six men had a "good, fair trial."

For Mr. Holt's wife, Donna, Thursday's sentencing brought an ending. She said she is glad that such dangerous people are off the streets.

Carlston Coleman received two consecutive life sentences plus 65 years. Mr. Dudley, Mr. Overton, Mr. Harold and Mr. Winters each received the maximum 20-year prison sentence for their RICO convictions.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com.