Two Plead Guilty in Conspiracy to Retaliate Against A Witness

3 mins read
Judge in the courtroom. Male judge striking the gavel.

ROANOKE, Va. – – A pair of Roanoke men who conspired to retaliate against a witness, to distribute fentanyl, and to possess a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, pleaded guilty recently in federal court.

William Preston Ramey-Woodard, 42, pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiring to threaten bodily harm or cause bodily harm to another person to retaliate against that person for providing information to law enforcement regarding the commission of a federal offense, one count of distributing 40 grams or more of fentanyl, and one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Joseph Coquia “Kee” Martin, 42, of Roanoke, Va., pleaded guilty last week to one count of attempting to murder a person who was assisting a law enforcement officer and one count of discharging and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.  

“These two defendants sought to retaliate against a government witness and for that, they are being held accountable,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said today. “Too many times people with information have been scared to come forward due to fear of repercussion. This case should serve as an example that we, as a law enforcement community in Roanoke, have your back. We will protect you and prosecute anyone who threatens you for doing what is right.”

“Actions such as witness intimidation will never be tolerated and it is an act that we at ATF take very seriously,” ATF Washington Field Division Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson said today. “We know that it takes immense courage for some of our brave citizens to come forward and speak out against violent crime. We will continue to work with the United States Attorneys’ Office to investigate all matters such as this.”

Related:  Kevin Ritz Sworn in as United States Attorney

“All too often, the solving of and successful prosecution regarding incidents of violent crime relies on witness information,” Roanoke Police Chief Sam Roman said. “We know our community is tired of seeing loved ones suffer from the impacts of gun violence and violent crime, and they would do anything to help us stop the ongoing violence in Roanoke. We also know that there are some people who threaten our community members for working with law enforcement agencies on these cases. This is a direct message to our community: do not be afraid to do the right thing. Do not be afraid to work with us on these cases. We will do all we can to protect you from those who threaten you for doing your part to keep your community safe.”

“I appreciate the combined work of the law enforcement community in Roanoke that has led to two violent criminals being removed from our community,” Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall said today. “The message should be clear that we will not tolerate this behavior and that we will do everything possible to protect victims and witnesses.”

According to court documents, in March 2020, Ramey-Woodard sold $4,000 worth of fentanyl to a confidential police informant. The transaction was captured on video, during which it is clear the defendant was in possession of a firearm. Following two subsequent controlled purchases from Ramey-Woodard, the defendant was arrested. While in custody, Ramey-Woodard engaged in coded telephone and email conversations with co-conspirator Joseph Martin, which were recorded by the jail. The two discussed the identity of the informant, where he worked, where he lived, and whether the informant should suffer consequences as a result of working with the police.

Related:  Arizona Man Sentenced to Five Years’ Imprisonment for Transporting Over 5 Kilograms of Cocaine in Iowa

On May 31, 2020, Martin went to the informant’s home and shot him, causing a non-lethal injury. Ramey-Woodard claimed he wanted the informant to suffer a threat or perhaps physical assault but did not plan, intend, or anticipate Martin would shoot the informant.

Both Ramey-Woodard and Martin face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a maximum penalty of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Virginia State Police, the Roanoke County Police Department, the City of Roanoke Police Department, the Salem Police Department, the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the County of Roanoke, the Western Virginia Regional Jail, and members of the Roanoke High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA) investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Bassford and Jonathan Jones are prosecuting the case.