Man convicted in 1977 takeover of D.C. buildings released from prison

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Maurice Williams was just 24 years old, working as a news reporter for Howard University’s WHUR-FM radio, when he was shot to death during a 1977 takeover of a city government building by a dozen Hanafi Muslims.

A judge later sentenced his shooter, Abdul Muzikir, to more than seven decades behind bars, telling him the punishment meant “you will die in jail.”

But in April, Muzikir, now 67, was ordered released from prison, as part of an effort to let out inmates who have served at least 20 years in prison, are determined not to be a danger to society and might be particularly susceptible to the pandemic because of their age or health conditions.

Muzikir’s release — which came over the objection of a federal prosecutor — evoked memories of a dark chapter in D.C. history, when a dozen Hanafi Muslims violently stormed government property and took hostages. They were hoping, authorities have said, to force officials to turn over five people convicted of murdering seven family members of Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, the leader of the plot.

Williams became one of the few working journalists killed in the nation’s capital. The late Marion Barry — then a council member who would go on to become mayor — was also shot and wounded.

In court papers and interviews, some of the victims’ family members said they were at peace with Muzikir’s release — if he truly was no longer a threat.

“He served his time, why not let him live the rest of his life free,” said Williams’s brother, Myron Williams, in a recent interview with The Washington Post. “He accomplished a lot while he was in prison. It’s time.”

Muzikir, who court records say is now residing with his family in Silver Spring, Md., declined to comment through his attorney, Jon Anderson with the District’s Public Defender Service.

In all, 149 hostages were held captive in three downtown buildings between March 9 through March 11. In addition to the downtown District building where Williams was killed, the gunmen held hostages at gunpoint at the headquarters of B’nai B’rith, then located in the 1600 block of Rhode Island Ave. NW and the Islamic Center, in the 2500 block of Massachusetts Avenue NW.

Myron Williams said he believed Muzikir, also known as Marquette Anthony Hall, and the other co-defendants were “brainwashed” by Khaalis. “He was only 22 at the time, and it was a different time in our country then,” he said.

Barry’s widow, Cora Masters Barry, wrote in a letter to the judge that she, too, did not oppose Muzikir’s release. “I hope with the years that he has left, they will be fruitful. That’s all,” she said in a brief interview with The Washington Post.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, D.C. Superior Court judges have granted 203 people compassionate release, according to court data. Another 182 had petitions pending as of…

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