Former airman convicted of murder in 2005 Gangster Disciples initiation death

A 2006 handout offering a $25,000 reward for information in the murder case of Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

By JEFF SCHOGOL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 15, 2010

WASHINGTON — A former airman has been convicted of second degree murder and witness tampering in connection with the death of an Army sergeant during a gang initiation ceremony in Germany.

Rico Williams faces up to life in prison, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington said. A sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.

Prosecutors argued that Williams, the alleged leader of a Gangster Disciples chapter in Germany, led 10 gang members in a brutal “jumping in” ceremony for Sgt. Juwan Johnson near Ramstein Air Base in 2005. Williams was accused of throwing the first punch in the six-minute beating that Johnson had to endure to join the gang.

Johnson fell at least three times during the ordeal, and Williams was accused of kicking him on the ground. The next day, Johnson was found dead in his barracks. His death was later attributed to multiple blunt-force trauma.

Six other servicemembers have already been tried in military court in connection with the incident. Five received jail time ranging from two to 12 years. The sixth servicemember was found not guilty on all charges.

Airman Nicholas Sims, who was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, testified during his own trial in May 2008 about just how ferocious the beating was.

“I don’t see how anybody could have made it out of that,” he said.