By Tom Hays, The Associated Press
NEW YORK, N.Y. (AP) - Federal authorities want a man accused in the execution-style killing of two undercover detectives to face the death penalty under new charges announced on Monday.
The alleged shooter, Ronell Wilson, 21, and four other defendants were named in a 30-count racketeering indictment. The men allegedly were members of a violent gang that dealt crack cocaine and illegal weapons out of a housing project on Staten Island.
The gang, which was responsible for a string of robberies and drive-by shootings, "culminated its reign of terror with the execution of two courageous police officers," said U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf.
Wilson already had pleaded not guilty in state court to first-degree murder. He was ordered held without bail at an arraignment on the new charges in Brooklyn federal court on Monday.
During a sting operation in March 2003, detectives James Nemorin, 36, and Rodney Andrews, 34, had met with Wilson to buy a Tec-9 submachine from the gang. It was alleged that Wilson decided to rob them instead and, once learning they were police officers, shot both in the back of the head with a .44-caliber revolver.
Authorities began to weigh possible federal charges after the state Court of Appeals ruled in June that part of New York's death penalty law was unconstitutional. If authorized by the U.S. Department of Justice, federal prosecutors could seek death for Wilson.
The potential for a capital case "is the most important aspect of this indictment," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a statement. "Anyone who murders a police officer should forfeit his life."
Following the Wilson's arraignment, his attorney, Ephraim Savitt, told reporters the case represents "death-penalty politics at its worst."
The indictment also charges Paris Bullock and Michael Whiten in connection with the case. But authorities said neither defendant would be eligible for the death penalty; they instead face a possible life sentence if convicted of conspiracy, drug-dealing, robbery, gun running and other crimes.
No one has been executed in New York since the death penalty was reinstated in 1995, after a 25-year absence. The last execution in the state was in 1963.
Nemorin and Andrews were the first officers killed in the line of duty since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.