The Washington Post

Friday, January 5, 2001

Ex-Detective Faces New Deceit Charges; Phony Letters Allegedly Sent to Judge
by Bill Miller, Washington Post Staff Writer


  A former D.C. police detective who admitted lying under oath about his credentials as an expert witness is in trouble again -- this time for allegedly concocting phony letters to a judge attesting to his character in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

 Johnny St. Valentine Brown Jr. wrote the four laudatory letters himself without the authorization of the references who supposedly were urging leniency, prosecutors said. The ruse came to light after his sentencing in June, authorities said.

  Authorities became suspicious of the letters because they were all typed in the same single-spaced manner and had similar margins. They launched an FBI investigation and recently concluded that Brown was the real author.

  Although U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. remarked that the letters were quite impressive, Brown still wound up with a two-year prison term. Prosecutors recently asked that Brown be held in criminal contempt of court for submitting forged and fraudulent letters during the sentencing proceedings.

  If convicted, Brown, 58, could get another year in prison.

  Brown, who uses the nickname "Jehru," was once the D.C. police department's top drug expert at criminal trials. He testified thousands of times about the inner workings of the narcotics trade. He routinely told juries that he had a doctorate in pharmacology and that he was a board-certified pharmacist. Both claims, he later admitted, were false.

He pleaded guilty in February to eight perjury counts stemming from his expert testimony.

  As the sentencing approached, Kennedy began receiving letters that appeared to be from people who claimed to know him.

  One letter bore the name of the Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy, former D.C. delegate to Congress and pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church. "Jehru, the way in which I prefer to address him, deserves a lot of praise for all the good work he has done, because it far outweighs any harm that he may have done. .  .  . I only wish there were more police officers of the caliber that Detective Brown was," the two-page letter stated.

  Fauntroy said recently that he does not know Brown and was stunned to hear about the letter. "I did not write it," he said. "I suspect one of two things. Either he is out of touch with reality, or someone has set him up."

  Prosecutors said similar phony letters bore the names of Robert S. Weiner, a spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy; William Lucy, a leader of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and Johnette Wilson, coordinator of the Washington Hospital Center's youth mentoring program.  

 The letter bearing Lucy's name said he was among many friends concerned about Brown and declared, "Despite what the criminal justice system says 'Jehru' is guilty of, he has redeeming qualities which deserve your every consideration."

  The missive supposedly signed by Weiner said he and others are "enraged .  .  . at the passion the U.S. Attorney's Office has exhibited." Weiner, who knows Brown, said yesterday that "it was a sad situation."

 At the time of his sentencing, Brown pleaded with the judge to give him a second chance instead of locking him up. He said he had punished himself for months, adding, "I felt bad for so long that on days that I felt good, I felt guilty."

  Brown was back in federal court on Wednesday to answer the contempt allegations. Kennedy recused himself from the case, and the matter was reassigned to Judge Thomas F. Hogan. A hearing is set for Jan. 12.

  Defense attorney James Rudasill did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment.

  Since Brown's misrepresentations about his credentials came to light, 39 people convicted of drug crimes in Washington have filed motions for new trials in federal and D.C. Superior Court. Sixteen convictions have been upheld, and one has been dismissed.

    Prosecutors dropped two cases on their own, negotiated guilty pleas to lesser charges in three, and plan to retry one defendant. The other challenges are pending.