Drug kingpin Blackwell pleads guilty
Steven Blackwell, the 27-year-old reputed leader of an East Baltimore drug organization that authorities believe engaged in a prolonged street war with a rival faction, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to heroin conspiracy charges, money laundering and tax evasion.
The case, which was scheduled to go to trial next week, came to a quiet resolution with Blackwell agreeing to a plea deal that could send him to prison for 20 years in a case in which he faced life. Wearing a burgundy jumpsuit, he admitted to directing a drug operation that stretched from New York to the Dominican Republic, and laundering money through gambling proceeds and by purchasing winning lottery tickets.
Though Blackwell was not charged with any allegations of violence, authorities have long suspected Blackwell and his associates of being key players in a wave of violence sparked by the abduction of Blackwell's younger brothers in Catonsville, which prompted an Amber Alert and was quietly resolved without criminal charges.
As many as 27 people may have been shot in the violence that ensued over the next 15 months, according to court documents and sources.
Gunmen struck back against the abductors at a family-owned appliance store on East North Avenue, with the father of one of the abductors among the two who were killed.
Blackwell associates were then targeted for violence, including a man abducted and found floating in the Patapsco River, a fatal shooting outside a funeral, and the wounding of 12 people – including Blackwell himself – when a gunman sprayed bullets at a backyard cookout.