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January 26, 2010

Witness intimidation case recalled in drug arrest

News that a woman convicted of playing a role in a horrific witness intimidation case in 2005 is now suspected in a drug and money conterfeiting case only revives years-old pain.

Shakia Watkins played a small role in trying to drive Harwood community activist Edna McAbier from her home by making fraudulent 911 calls to divert police from the area so her associates could firebomb the house. They were angry with McAbier for refusing to back down in repeatedly calling police on drug dealers.

Many people went to federal prison for long periods of time, but Watkins served four years from a federal judge and got released on three years supervised probation. Then on Friday she was one of 10 people busted by city police in connection with a drug investigation that led to the discovery of $15,000 in counterfeit money.

In 2006, Baltimore Sun reporter Matthew Dolan interviewed Edna McAbier and wrote about her plight. She had done everything right, testified against everybody, but saddes of all, even with all the people who had attacked her in prison, she could not reclaim the home she had fought so hard to protect. Friends of her attackers made that impossible.

Here is just a part of Dolan's story (full story here):

She will never again sit alone in her rowhouse off East Lorraine Avenue and gaze at the framed Declaration of Independence that her niece boasted to friends was real. She'll never again admire the Tuscany Tan paint on her walls or the original tin ceiling in her kitchen or the fake brick wall that she says fooled everyone.

More than 18 months after her home was firebombed by drug dealers now in prison, she remains in exile.

She doesn't hand out a card anymore with her address and telephone number. The former community association president who shoveled rat feces out of a local playground at 6 a.m. on Sundays and shouted at drug dealers who preyed on her corners now won't even tell people her last name.

She has spent months in hiding, appearing only to testify against the men who threatened her. Earlier this month, a federal judge sent away the last of her tormentors, the people who plotted against her because she cooperated with police, the men who tried to silence her that awful January night.

At this point, she once thought, she'd be home.

But those men, those drug dealers, those gang leaders, have friends. And friends don't forget. So after 30 years, beloved and beleaguered Harwood has lost Miss Edna, its greatest champion.

"I think the only community life I wanted," the 60-year-old said in her first interview about the attack, "is the one I had."


And just what the @#$% was she doing back out on the streets? Only four years in prison for ruining a community and a person's life? I guess this is yet another shining example of the Baltimore District Attorney's office failing the citizens of Baltimore. Maybe one day they will wake up and notice that the real blight on this city is not the criminals, but the idiots running the DA's office, letting the thugs back out on the street.

Thanks for your comment, but in this case, it's not the Baltimore State's Attorney. This one was handled by the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office. Most of the attackers got very long prison terms.

Yes, but the hoodlums still control that neighborhood, so,... who won ?

cases related to witness intimidation

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About Peter Hermann
Peter Hermann started covering news for The Baltimore Sun in 1990, first in Anne Arundel County and, starting in 1994, reporting on the Baltimore Police Department. In 2001, he was assigned to Jerusalem as the Baltimore Sun's Middle East correspondent. He returned in 2005 as an assistant city editor overseeing crime coverage. In 2008, Peter returned to the beat as a daily reporter and blogger. A recent BBC report featured him in a segment on the harsh realities of covering crime in Baltimore.

Coverage will focus on crime trends, problems in neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere, profiles of victims and police officers and try to offer readers a fresh perspective on one of the most vexing issues facing Baltimore and its future.

Contributing to this blog is Justin Fenton, who joined The Sun in 2005 and has covered the Baltimore City Police Department and the criminal justice system since 2008. His work includes an investigation into Cal Ripken Jr.’s minor league baseball stadium deal with his hometown of Aberdeen, a three-part series chronicling a ruthless con woman, coverage of the killing of five Amish children at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and a job swap with a British crime reporter to explore differences in crime-fighting. A special report looking into how city police handle rape cases led to sweeping reforms that changed the way sexual assaults are investigated in Baltimore. He was recognized as the best reporter in Baltimore by the City Paper in 2010 and by Baltimore Magazine in 2011.

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