By Joe Beck
A man described in court documents as the leader and enforcer of an extensive crack cocaine ring in Winchester was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court to life imprisonment.
Alfanco Dexter Britton was one of eight defendants in the case, five of whom were convicted in a trial lasting eight days in late 2012. Federal prosecutors accused the defendants of selling more than 3,000 grams of crack in a conspiracy that spanned several locations and lasted from May 2009 to early 2012.
Britton's life sentence came as a result of a conviction on one count of participating in a conspiracy to distribute crack and a lengthy criminal history cited by prosecutors. He was also sentenced on eight counts of distribution of crack.
"Before this case, the defendant had been convicted of a variety of other criminal offenses, including at least three prior felony drug convictions," Assistant U.S. Attorney Grayson Hoffman wrote in a sentencing memorandum submitted to Judge Michael F. Urbanski.
Hoffman added that the sentence called for by federal sentencing guidelines "will protect the public from further crime and social degradation by the defendant because he will be imprisoned for life."
Britton's attorney, W. Andrew Harding of Harrisonburg, called the mandatory life sentence in the federal guidelines unconstitutional. He said the death of University of Maryland basketball great Len Bias from a cocaine overdose in June 1986 encouraged Congress to pass tough anti-drug laws that included mandatory life imprisonment under some circumstances.
Harding called passage of the drug law "the most important event in Alfanco Birtton's life . . . when he was two years old."
Two other defendants were sentenced with Britton on Wednesday. Nikki Williams, described in court documents as Britton's girlfriend and the mother of another defendant was sentenced to 17 ½ years in prison. Demario Coffie was sentenced to 10 years for his role in the conspiracy.
Williams's attorney, John S. Hart Jr. asked Urbanski to impose a sentence more lenient than those called for in the guidelines. He said Williams was not a manager or supervisor in the conspiracy, as prosecutors had alleged.
"It is hard to imagine how Ms. Williams's opinions or management skills would have any influence or persuasion over the mastermind or enforcer of the operation, Alfanco Britton," Hart wrote in his sentencing memorandum.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org