A federal jury convicted two men Wednesday for the 2016 killing of a Baltimore teacher’s aide who prosecutors said was mistaken for a whistleblower in a health fraud case.
The verdict capped a four-week trial in U.S. District Court for Davon Carter and Clifton Mosley, who were charged with conspiracy to murder a witness and witness tampering. They face a mandatory sentence of life in prison for each of the two conspiracy counts, and for the witness retaliation and witness tampering murder charges.
Latrina Ashburne, 41, was leaving the home she shared with her mother, in the 2900 block of Rosalind Avenue in the Cylburn neighborhood, in May 2016 when a gunman approached on foot and fled. A federal agent received a phone call a short time later from Ashburne’s next-door neighbor, who wondered if the gunman might have really intended to shoot her instead.
The neighbor had tipped off police about a Medicaid fraud scheme involving a man named Matthew Hightower, whose company over-billed for adult diapers.
Although Hightower, who is doing 30-years in prison for an unrelated murder, has not been charged in Ashburne’s death, he was a large part of what prosecutors’ presented in this trial.
While awaiting trial on the fraud charges, prosecutors said Hightower was provided information for his defense and learned the name of a witness. It was someone he knew, and who had confronted Hightower previously to express her disapproval about the fraud, prosecutors said.
Hightower had been free pending trial but was locked up in early May 2016 after prosecutors added charges related to a 2013 fatal shooting in Rosedale.
“The seeds of discontent were growing" in Hightower’s “heart and mind,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Wilkinson told jurors during opening statements. “He learned and knew and found out that it was in fact Ms. Ashburne’s neighbor, the whistleblower, who had started this whole thing.”
Wilkinson told jurors he turned to his close friends Carter and Mosley for help, though she cautioned there were no “smoking gun” phone calls showing such an explicit arrangement. She said there are instead “nuggets” highlighting motives and relationships, including surveillance images of two vehicles and cell phone location records.
Mosley testified before a grand jury and acknowledged being in the area of the killing, but said it was because he sold marijuana there. Harry Trainor, his attorney, told jurors in opening arguments that Mosley was there the morning of the shooting because he was supposed to give the Audi to Carter, and was not part of any murder plot.
The case was jointly investigated by Baltimore Police and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General as well as the FBI, ATF and Baltimore County police.