A convicted fraud and purported pimp, Melvin C. Slaughter has admitted to arranging to rob a Maple Valley marijuana grower. That robbery - arranged by a prostitute working for Slaughter and having sex with the grower - saw bullets fly on a normally quiet residential street as Slaughter and his accomplices tried to make off with drugs and weapons.
"I wish I could turn back the hands of time and make better choices," Slaughter said in a letter to the court. "I'm really disappointed in myself for putting others and myself in a scary situation. I had my fair share of struggles but that's no reason to do what I did."
Having already pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the Aug. 13 robbery, Slaughter was sentenced Friday to 14 years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik.
Following the sentencing, U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan said her prosecutors have brought charges in four marijuana robberies in less than a year. In each, an armed marijuana dealer has faced federal prison time.
"A neighborhood became a shooting range because this defendant and his drug trafficker brought their violent business into its quiet streets," Durkan said in a statement.
"Guns and drugs do not mix," she continued. "Those who put lives and community safety at risk will be held accountable."
The robbery's target - self-described medical marijuana grower Justin Loken - is also facing federal charges for using a pistol to defend his Maple Valley home and marijuana grow. Loken has pleaded guilty, as have Slaughter's two co-defendants, Ferdinand Clay and Annastasia Marie Pierson.
As all concerned ultimately admitted, Pierson was key to the robbery.
A prostitute pimped by Slaughter, Pierson and Loken had been trading sex for money for some time when she led Slaughter to Loken's home, located in the 23300 block of Southeast 266th Street .
Known to Loken as "Kayla," Pierson arrived at his house after arranging to buy six pounds of marijuana. As Loken cracked a beer, Clay, 32, and Slaughter rushed into the home.
Having forced Loken to open his safe, the men bound him with plastic ties and ransacked the house before taking guns and money to their waiting cars. Loken broke free, grabbed a 9 mm pistol hidden under a mattress and rushed outside in time to see Clay and Slaughter loading the rest of his guns into the back of an SUV.
One of the men raised a stolen AR-15-style rifle at Loken, who opened fire on the SUV and a car. He shot Clay and a woman who'd been duped into driving one of the men to the robbery.
The robbers made off with several rifles and shotguns, $300 cash and a quarter pound of marijuana, according to charging papers. Witnesses also reported seeing an SUV and Honda leaving the area while discarding items; investigators later recovered bloody guns thrown from the SUV.
Clay, Slaughter and Pierson stopped at a 7-Eleven near the shooting scene to seek medical help for Clay, who'd been shot in the face and back. Clay was rushed to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with life-threatening injuries.
The second woman told investigators she was sitting in the car outside Loken's home when the others rushed out carrying guns and pot. Writing the court, a King County Sheriff's Office detective said the woman was "very upset about being unwittingly dragged into" the robbery and, apparently, about being shot in the backside.
The woman drove herself to Valley Medical Center in Kent. She told police she didn't immediately realize she'd been shot.
Clay was arrested at Harborview while Slaughter turned himself in to police shortly after the shooting. Pierson was also arrested.
Police subsequently found about 100 marijuana plants growing inside Loken's home. While Loken initially claimed to be running a medical marijuana collective garden, Lombardi said he later admitted that was "at best partially true."
The amount of marijuana Loken grew and sold exceeded what's allowed under Washington's medical marijuana law, Lombardi said. Of course, all marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
Asking that Slaughter be sentenced to 15 years in prison, Lombardi noted Slaughter was under federal supervision for a 2007 fraud conviction when he planned and conducted the robbery.
In that bank fraud, Slaughter - then a member of a rap group called "Crupt Practice" - convicted young women to give him their bank information after promising them money. He and others then overdrew their accounts, stealing $1 million.
"Mr. Slaughter is a man of considerable charm, intelligence, and ability," Lombardi said. "It is unfortunate, even tragic, that he has repeatedly deployed those talents to commit crimes - crimes of an escalating level of seriousness."
Clay was also previously sentenced to federal prison in a bank fraud. Caught in 2000, Clay worked with an uncle of Slaughter's in the scheme.
Sentenced to just more than five years in federal prison, Slaughter was on probation when he, Clay and Pierson robbed Loken.
Offering a vastly different reading of the federal sentencing guidelines, Slaughter's defense attorney contends her client should serve seven years in prison for the robbery.
As put forward by the defense and acknowledged by prosecutors, Slaughter came to a life of crime from a childhood of abuse and neglect.
Raised for a time in Seattle's Yesler Terrance housing project, he was forced to steal money in his pre-teen years to buy food that his sister cooked for them. By his account, his drug-addicted mother failed to provide for them.
Having spent middle school living out of a "crack house" in the Central District, Slaughter befriended the drug dealers who sold to his mother and soon fell into trouble. He began smoking marijuana at age 10 and drinking as a teen.
Rapping and writing music, Slaughter hoped to make it as a musician. He also held the misplaced hope that crime could be his way up in the world.
Now a father, Slaughter attempted to run a home for chronically ill adults following his release from prison. That business failed, though, and he launched the robbery plot.
"I just gave up on everything I worked so hard for," Slaughter said in a letter to the court. "I'm not trying to justify my actions at all. I just want the courts to know I'm not a bad person and that I can do the right thing in society."
Loken, Clay and Pierson are each expected to be sentenced in coming weeks. Clay, Pierson and Slaughter remain jailed, while Loken is free on bond.