[caption id="attachment_19694" align="alignleft" width="300"] Photo by Rarah[/caption]This morning, five years after City Paper introduced Jose J. Morales to Baltimore's broader public, he was sentenced to life in prison in Federal District Court in Greenbelt for arranging the murder of Robert Long.Long's mother, Grace Bouvier, attended the hearing, according to this account by the Sun's Ian Duncan.There was apparently some discussion about Morales' status as a cooperator—he lied repeatedly to federal law enforcement trying to mislead them in the murder investigation—and Morales's lawyers asked the court to redact parts of the transcript that could make it appear that he's a snitch.Judge Roger Titus declined to do that, imposing the life sentence without hesitation, the Sun reports:
"The mandatory minimum is certainly not excessive here … The nature and circumstances of this offense are horrific," Titus said. "The actions of this defendant were an assault on the criminal justice system."Morales used a cell phone to arrange Long's murder in the spring of 2008, a few days after Long turned state's evidence against him in a series of scaffolding and heavy equipment-theft cases in Baltimore Circuit Court. Long had for years been Morales' main aid in Morales' construction business, which operated primarily by scamming customers. They stole machinery in order to look legitimate, absconding with customers' money and collapsing some houses they were supposed to be renovating.When we first encountered him he was two steps removed from now-Governor Martin O'Malley's campaign finance chair.Shortly after Long's murder Morales told his then-lawyer, Stanley Needleman, that he'd paid $20,000 to a member of Dead Man, Inc. for the hit. Needleman kept that secret until federal agents—acting on information from other Needleman clients—raided his office and house, seizing $1.2 million in cash on which Needleman had not paid income tax.Needleman pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison. He testified against Morales at the murder trial.I was called to do the same, as a result of my stories on Morales.Before Morales was charged in the murder, City police arrested, and a jury convicted, Demetrius Smith for the murder. In doing so they lost a cell phone that could have been used as evidence, then didn't mention that to defense lawyers. They took the word of a junkie (since deceased) and a hearing-impaired woman who mysteriously appeared as a witness. Smith was exonerated last year and released early this year after serving four years in state prison.Morales, meanwhile, was convicted in two separate drug conspiracies—one to smuggle cocaine to Baltimore, and one to smuggle heroin into a federal prison. He was sentenced to 262 months in each case, to be served consecutively."Thanks to outstanding law enforcement work, Jose Morales will spend the rest of his life in federal prison for murder, and a wrongly convicted man was exonerated," said U.S. Attorney J. Rosenstein in a press release after the sentencing.