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November 23, 2011

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.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:11 AM | | Comments (0)

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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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