November 8, 2011

Accused Dead Man Inc. leader appears in court; new allegations

The reputed leader of a Maryland-based prison gang that has spread throughout the country made his first appearance in federal court today after being indicted along with 21 others in a racketeering conspiracy that accuses Dead Man Inc. of murder, drug dealing and other crimes.

Perry Roark was led into the courtroom wearing a white t-shirt and jeans, his pony tail falling across both shoulders. The hulking man - he is a power lifter - was only in court briefly, as his attorney said he is already being held without bond in Anne Arundel County on a separate murder charge, making a detention hearing moot. 

But a hearing for a co-defendant - John Zion - allowed U.S. Attorney Robert Harding to outline some of the investigative tactics and allegations against the gang, including new details on two of the murders - the fatal shootings of Eugene Chambers and Walter Milewski - the group has been linked to. 

Harding said Milewski was a "dawg" in the gang who was told to execute a fellow member named Jeremy Ridgeway; Milewski was supplied a gun and went to Ridgeway's home in Curtis Bay on Sept. 18, 2009 to kill Ridgeway. When he got to the home, Harding said, there were two people on the front porch - one of them was Eugene Chambers. Milewski asked if he was "J-Rock," a nickname for Ridgeway, and Chambers said no. But Milewski, apparently distrusting Chambers, shot him multiple times.

"It should be clear, he did not intend to kill Eugene Chambers. It was a case of mistaken identity," Harding said in court. 

Within hours after realizing the mistake, Harding said, the gang decided to execute Milewski. Harding said Zion was involved in those discussions and supplied the gun to Milewski. A man named John Henry Adams, 23, was charged by Baltimore County police at the time.

Zion's attorney disputed the account, saying Ridgeway, who is also charged in last week's indictment, is friends with Zion. He said Zion, who is a construction worker with a few assault charges on his record, was a "small fish" who had been caught up in investigators' wide net. 

Harding countered that the case involves wiretaps and recordings of Dead Man Inc. gang meetings, where the killings and other crimes were discussed. He noted that of the 20 people who appeared before the federal grand jury, all but "two or three" were DMI members. 

Harding also said Ridgeway's friendship with Zion didn't negate the attempted murder accusations. "Mr. Ridgeway is the last person to know of Mr. Zion's role to kill him," Harding said dryly.


Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gangs

November 2, 2011

Feds indict 22 alleged Dead Man Inc. members

Nearly two dozens alleged members of a homegrown prison gang that has spread throughout the country have been indicted on federal racketeering charges that include accusations that they conspired to kill four people, officials announced Wednesday.

Follow this link for the full story.

The alleged Dead Man Inc. members, who refer to themselves as "dawgs" and espouse an anti-government philosophy, used contraband cellphones to direct activities and spread its membership into South Baltimore, eastern Baltimore County, northern Anne Arundel County and at least three other states, authorities said.

Among those charged are the alleged co-founders Perry Roark and James Sweeney. Roark, a Dundalk native who is referred to as the "supreme commander," was charged earlier this year in another murder, days before he was to be released from a 25-year prison term.

"On our streets, this organization has been involved in street robberies, home invasions, property thefts, intimidation, assaults — you name it, they're involved in it," said Randall Jones Sr., an Anne Arundel County police commander. "The northern part of our county has been plagued by these individuals, and this is a major blow to this organization."

The gang formed in the late 1990s. Roark was reportedly close with members of the Black Guerrilla Family, law enforcement officials say, but that gang's rules prohibited him from joining because he is white. With their blessing, officials say he formed a new gang at the Jessup prison that would become an umbrella organization of sorts for other white gangs and performed hits for the BGF.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:36 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Gangs, South Baltimore

October 25, 2011

Prosecutors win 1st state gang conviction - again

City prosecutors have for the second time won the first conviction under the state's gang statute.

Dajuan Marshall, 29, was convicted in August 2010 of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and participation in a criminal gang - a statute enacted in Maryland in 2007 - in the 2008 killing of Kenneth "Cash" Jones, a leader in the Pasadena Denver Lanes Blood set abducted near The Block and later found dead in the trunk of a car. But that conviction was overturned due to juror misconduct, after a juror did an Internet search for Marshall's prior criminal record. Circuit Court Judge L. George Russell said the evidence was overwhelming against Marshall, but said he had no option but to declare a mistrial.

Prosecutors gave it another try this month, and once again convicted Marshall, this time of conspiracy to commit murder and participation in a gang.

Witnesses identified Marshall, a leader in the Spyda Bloods set, as the person who ordered Jones' murder and one of two men who forced Jones into the trunk. 

Marshall will be sentenced on Dec. 20 and faces a maximum sentence of life plus 20 years in prison.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Gangs

Motorcycle gangs, juvenile gangs in Maryland

The FBI last week released its latest Gang Threat Assessment report, which takes information from law enforcement agencies and news reports across the country to spot trends in gang activity. The big takeaway, which the FBI admits isn't a news flash: gangs continue to expand and evolve.

Among the key findings is that gangs are increasingly engaging in non-traditional crimes like human trafficking, prostitution and counterfeiting and mortgage fraud, and are making greater use of social networking sites to connect with other members and recruit new ones. 

Maryland-specific findings aren't broken down by jurisdiction, but they include:

-The report found that there's been a significant increase in the number of criminal motorcycle gangs. Maryland isn't among the states cited as having the biggest increase, though Pennsylvania and Virginia are, and Maryland is listed as one of five states seeing a spike in the Outlaws gang.

-Maryland is among 15 states that has jurisdictions where juveniles are responsible for the majority of crime, it says. The report attributes increases in juvenile gangs and violence in part to incarceration rates of older members and aggressive recruitment in schools.

-Asian gangs, which the report says are growing but maintain a lower-profile and "prey on their own race," are expanding significantly in Maryland and 10 other states. Maryland also is among a handful of states that report the presence of Haitian and Jamaican gangs.

The report also cites the Black Guerrilla Family's use of pre-paid debit cards as a currency in Maryland prisons as an example of money laundering tactics used by gangs. 

Read the full report here

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gangs

October 20, 2011

Another BGF leader sentenced

Another leader of the Black Guerrilla Family and a co-defendant were sentenced this week in federal court. Fifty-seven-year-old Ray Olivis, also known as "Unc," received 11 years from U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. for racketeering conspiracy. Erik Ushry, 27, was sentenced to 57 months in prison on drug conspiracy charges.

Here's how the U.S. Attorney's Office characterized Olivis' participation: 

According to his plea, from 2006 through June 2010, Olivis was one of the leaders of BGF, enforcing discipline in the gang and directing and participating in the drug trafficking activities of the gang. It was forseeable to Olivis that during the conspiracy he possessed with intent to distribute between 700 grams and one kilogram of heroin. According to Ushry’s plea agreement, from September 2009 through April 2010, Ushry distributed between 80 and 100 grams of heroin in and around Baltimore as part of the conspiracy.
Specifically, while BGF leader and co-defendant Eric Brown was incarcerated, he extorted a fellow inmate for protection from violence at the hands of BGF members and assaulted another inmate who failed to make timely extortion payments to BGF. Brown and Olivis transferred some of the proceeds of BGF’s illegal activities, including drug trafficking and extortion, into prepaid debit card accounts. In addition, Brown arranged for contraband to be smuggled into correctional facilities through the use of couriers and corrections employees. Co-defendant Rainbow Williams delivered contraband, including narcotics, to corrections officers to be smuggled into correctional facilities, sometimes paying the officer for smuggling the contraband into prison. Williams even attempted to smuggle contraband into a Maryland correctional facility via a pair of tennis shoes, but he was discovered by corrections officials.
During intercepted phone conversations, Olivis and Williams discussed the day to day operations of BGF, violations of BGF protocols, and the sanctions that should be ordered against the members violating those protocols. In a phone conversation, Olivis and other BGF members discussed retaliating against a suspected informant and plans to assault an inmate who had been involved in the murder of another BGF member’s brother.

Eric Brown, the 42-year-old leader of the gang, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on August 18, 2011. Rainbow Williams, age 32, of Baltimore, was sentenced to 151 months in prison on August 30, 2011.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:13 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gangs, Prisons

October 13, 2011

Feds indict members of Bloods gang subset

[Note: Embedded video does not appear to be a Maryland Bloods member but was linked to on a Frederick South Side Brim member's YouTube account]

Read the full indictment here.

Two years after police found a gang roster in a Frederick motel room, federal authorities announced Thursday a racketeering indictment charging 35 alleged Bloods gang members with murder, kidnapping and other crimes from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore — a move they said had "dismantled" the gang.

Authorities say cells of the South Side Brims coordinated gang activity across the state and region, and court documents offer a tutorial on how modern criminal organizations operate, including posting photos and messages on Facebook, and uploading initiation videos on YouTube.

Those indicted are accused of at least one murder in Baltimore, an attempted murder in Wicomico County, a home invasion in Howard County, a kidnapping in Frederick, and witness intimidation in Allegany County, among a host of other alleged crimes.

"Gangs represent the most significant violent crime challenge we face throughout the state of Maryland," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, flanked at a Baltimore news conference by police officials from across the state. "We hope these gang indictments send a message to gang members and prospective gang members to get out while you can."

Frederick police chief Kim C. Dine said the case was "extremely significant" for his city, which he said has been conducting gang outreach work in recent years but is not immune to the spreading of gangs. "Sixteen of these gangsters are from Frederick, and it will have a huge impact on the city of Frederick and quality of life," he said.

The alleged leader of the gang was identified as Andre Ricardo Roach, a 34-year-old Prince George's County native. Known as "Redrum," he's accused of leading the gang since 2005 from behind bars at the North Branch Correctional Institute in Cumberland, where he is serving a 50-year sentence for second-degree murder.

Here's an article from the Frederick News Post from March in which a county detective told citizens that the South Side Brims were among several active sets there. 

The list of people charged is after the jump:

Continue reading "Feds indict members of Bloods gang subset" »

August 19, 2011

Reputed Black Guerilla Family gang leader gets 12 years

The reputed leader of the Black Guerilla Family prison gang - who authorities say directed hits on enemies from behind bars while eating lobster and sipping Grey Goose vodka - was sentenced to 12 years in prison late Thursday, federal prosecutors announced.

Eric Brown, 42, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr., and had faced a maximum of 20 years after pleading guilty on April 27. 

The case highlighted flaws in the state prison system, which the state's top corrections official said were unlike any he had faced in his career in other states. The seven-month investigation led to the indictment on drug and weapons charges of 24 people - including four state prison officers - who authorities believe are leaders or associates of the gang. Search warrants outlined how gang members were able to obtain heroin, direct hits on enemies through so-called "Death Angels" and conduct cell phone conference calls to arrange business with inmates around the state.

Gang associates established a publishing company and have been selling a handbook written by the gang's leader in Maryland, Brown, court documents allege. Titled "Empower Black Families," authorities say the handbook is designed to help new members learn about the gang. It costs $15 for inmates and $20 for non-inmates.

Here's some of our articles on the gang. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:19 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Gangs, Prisons

June 10, 2011

Corrections officer who doubled as gang member sentenced to prison

A corrections officer who was associated with the Black Guerrilla Family gang has been sentenced to 37 months in prison. Alicia Simmons was accused of helping to smuggle heroin and cell phones into the downtown Baltimore prison through the laundry.

Prosecutors also said she allowed gang members to fight and tried to identify police informants. The Sun's Justin Fenton wrote in July that evidence seized from a raid on her Pikesville apartment linked her to a who's who of Baltimore criminals.

That included a letter from a Bloods member with a signature tinted red contact lenses, another man linked to several killings and the producer of the infamouse Stop Snitching videos. She got caught up in a sweeping take-down of the BGF gang.

Here is a statement from the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office on the case: 

Continue reading "Corrections officer who doubled as gang member sentenced to prison " »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:38 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system, Gangs

May 26, 2011

Reputed Dead Man Inc. gang leader faces life without parole

Anne Arundel County prosecutors will seek life in prison without parole for Perry Roark, a reputed founder and leader of the violent prison gang Dead Man Inc., who was recently charged with first-degree murder in the 1994 death of another prisoner, The Sun's Andrea Siegel reports.

Roark, 42, a muscular man with a long ponytail, was notified Thursday in Anne Arundel County Circuit court during a hearing to set his trial date, of the possibility that he will never be freed. A trial was scheduled to start March 26, 2012, and is expected to take two weeks.

“We look forward to a fair and speedy trial and the vindication of our client,” said Assistant Public Defender Michael Morrissette.

Roark was to have been released from 25 years in prison several months ago, worrying law enforcement officials, who blocked his freedom with the murder charges. DMI has spread outside Maryland prisons in the Baltimore area as well as outside the state. Dissension among the mostly white membership led to permitting members to exit in April 2009 without penalty.

Before his expected release from prison several months ago, Roark was indicted in the beating death of inmate George Hartman, who was officials say was fatally beaten in the now-closed Maryland House of Correction.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:07 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Gangs, Prisons

March 25, 2011

Alleged "Bounty Hunter" gang member takes plea

[This post has been updated]

A seventh man was convicted in Baltimore Circuit Court Friday in what police and prosecutors say was a gang-related killing of a man who was beaten, wrapped in a blanket, stabbed and set on fire for failing to carry out a task.

With his trial about to begin – in which several co-defendants were expected to testify – 25-year-old Anthony Williams entered an Alford plea, maintaining his innocence but acknowledging prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him in the murder of Petro Taylor in December 2008.

“The evidence the state would present was very strong, and he was afraid the jury would believe the witnesses,” said his defense attorney, Nicole Egerton.

Police say that members and associates of the “Bounty Hunters,” a so-called enforcement arm of the Bloods gang, met for a party at the Red Carpet Inn on Reisterstown Road. There, Taylor was attacked and tossed into the trunk of a vehicle, believed to be dead.

The suspects drove to Leakin Park to dispose of the body, but realized he was still alive and stabbed him three dozen times before dousing him in gasoline and setting his body ablaze, sources told The Sun at the time.

Continue reading "Alleged "Bounty Hunter" gang member takes plea" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 3:31 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Gangs, Northwest Baltimore

February 23, 2011

Accused DMI leader held without bond

Perry Roark, the reputed leader of the growing prison gang Dead Man Inc., was transferred yesterday from state prison to the Anne Arundel County Detention Center to face murder charges in the beating death of fellow inmate in 1994. Though his file remains sealed, officials at the Jennifer Road Detention Center say he is being held without bond.

We wrote about Roark over the weekend, with authorities from across the state describing him as a violent leader of a white prison gang started in the late 1990s that has grown rapidly here and across the country. Roark, serving a 25-year prison sentence for a 1991 robbery, was set to be released Tuesday on mandatory release, but state police and Anne Arundel prosecutors turned back the clock on his sentence with the 17-year-old murder charge.

Court papers say little about the new charge, and news outlets didn't report the death of George Hartman in the House of Correction at the time. It may be some time before we get more information, as prosecutors are likely in no rush to try the case.

In a bit of irony, Dead Man Inc. reportedly has long prohibited members from being recruited in county detention centers, whose inmates they saw as inferior and softer than state prisoners. Now their reputed leader is housed in a county facility.

Read more from Sunday's story on Dead Man Inc here.

See a copy of an application for gang membership recovered by police in Roanoke, Va. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:30 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Gangs

February 20, 2011

With murder charge, authorities wind back clock on reputed gang leader's prison stay

For years, as the Maryland prison gang Dead Man Inc. grew in numbers and influence, law enforcement authorities watched anxiously as the scheduled release of the gang's reputed leader drew closer, wondering what his return would mean for the violent group's burgeoning street presence.

The climax was expected to come Tuesday — the day Perry Roark [seen at right] was scheduled to complete his 25-year term and exit a free man.

But before his scheduled release, state police and Anne Arundel County prosecutors effectively turned back the clock by resurrecting a 17-year-old murder charge, ensuring that Roark, who is believed to have founded the gang in a Maryland prison, will remain locked away for now.
Roark, a muscle-bound power lifter who turned 42 this month, has achieved godlike status among his followers, said Ryan Shifflet, Western Region director for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Gang Investigation Network. Shifflet, who met with Roark six months ago, describes him as influential, though somewhat reluctantly so at this point.

"Whether he likes it or not, it's the house he built," Shifflet said. "It's his baby, and he's going to hold that role to guys that have never even met him before. You've got tons of inmates who've never laid eyes on the man, but they know who he is and have heard he's 10 feet tall and bulletproof."
Three law enforcement sources with knowledge of the situation, who were not allowed to discuss the charges because they remain sealed, say Roark has been served with a warrant charging him in the killing of inmate George Hartman, who was beaten to death in a dormitory of the now-closed Maryland House of Correction in February 1994.
Read more here.
Click here to read a copy of a gang application seized by Roanoke, Va. police in '06.
Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gangs

February 3, 2011

Drugs, Baltimore and Mexican cartels

Anyone who wants to know how drugs get into Baltimore, read Sun reporter Justin Fenton's story out of federal court -- "Mexican cartel on trial in Baltimore."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter M. Nothstein told jurors Tuesday that during the course of the trial they would hear things "you've only seen on TV and in movies."

Nothstein couldn't have been more right. A mobile home packed with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cocaine crossing the country. Fine dining and fine hotels. A suitcase filled with $275,000 in a Baltimore hotel room. Another $335,000 in the trunk of a car. A corrupt cop and a stolen watch.

The details are in the story, and it's a tale using words not too often associated with Baltimore's street corner drug dealers. Here, we get words like "cartel" and "Mexico" and undercover DEA surveillance outside a Little Italy nightclub.

Said one suspect, according to the authorities: "My work is selling drugs. I'm a businessman."

January 20, 2011

Youth counselor sentenced for leading gang

A youth counselor for a city-funded organization that worked to reduce crime in West Baltimore was sentenced on Thursday to 14 years in prison for leading a gang and organizing drug dealing, money laundering and robberies, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Federal prosecutors described Todd Duncan, 36, as the “city-wide commander” of the Black Guerrilla Family, a gang founded in California in the 1960s that authorities say is responsible for selling heroin and in Baltimore.

Federal authorities accused Duncan of using his outreach work with Operation Safe Streets as a cover for drug dealing, and for promoting violence even as he got paid to help stop the bloodshed. His attorney has said previously that his client is not a violent person.

U.S. District Judge James D. Quarles Jr. sentenced Duncan in accordance with a plea agreement reached with prosecutors in September, when he pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering and admitted his involvement in one of the most powerful and violent gangs in the state.

In a statement, prosecutors said Duncan ran the gang from 2006 through the summer of 2010 and helped supply heroin to various street-corner drug shops around Baltimore. They also said he arranged bulk sales of the drug to wholesale customers.

Continue reading "Youth counselor sentenced for leading gang" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:04 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gangs, West Baltimore

December 17, 2010

Club manager pleads guilty to gang, drug ties

The former manager of a Northeast Baltimore club that had once been padlocked by police was sentenced on Friday to four years in federal prison for conspiring with a dangerous street gang to distribute heroin and participating in a stolen credit card ring.

Tomeka V. Harris, 34, had defended the Belair Road nightspot, Club 410, in interviews and before a padlock hearing chaired by a Baltimore police commander. But federal authorities put her in the center of a criminal enterprise and she pleaded guilty along with five other defendants who are serving up to 12 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Harris conspired with the leader of the Maryland Black Guerilla Family, a national gang that operates in the Maryland prison system and which authorities say still runs crews on city streets (these are also the guys who feasted on lobster and champagne while in prison).

In a statement, prosecutors in U.S. District Court in Baltimore say secretly recorded conversations with gang members implicated Harris "in the smuggling of contraband into Maryland prisons" that turned out to be drugs.

But the prosecutors also say that she stole more than a half million dollars using stolen credit cards and credit information. Authorities estimate that she and her conspirators used more than 1,000 stolen cards from 10 different financial institutions.

For more background on Harris and Club 410: 

Continue reading "Club manager pleads guilty to gang, drug ties" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 3:45 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gangs, Northeast Baltimore

November 30, 2010

Last of Bloods gang plead guilty

The last of 28 defendants accused of being members of the Tree Top Piru Bloods gang has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Keili Dyson, 28, and Keon Williams, 29, admitted to conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine. All 28 members who were indicted have now been convicted.

Prosecutors said that Dyson held the rank of OYG (Original Young Gangster) and that he met with other leaders to discuss pending acts of violence and discipline. On Oct. 18, 2007, authorities said he was found by detectives on a raid of a house on Audrey Avenue with empty zip lock bags used to package drugs. Police said he had cocaine in his pockets.

Prosecutors said Williams was overheard on intercepted phone calls discussing the distribution of crack cocaine along the Greenmount Avenue corridor.

Williams and Dyson each face up to 20 years in prison when they are sentenced in March. More than a dozen other gang members have been sentenced to 18 months to life in prison, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 5:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system, Gangs

September 29, 2010

Gang leader gets life for ordering death of member he thought gay

Timothy E. Rawlings Jr is a 24-year-old former quarterback for Parkville High School and the father of a 3-year-old boy. He's also a leader of the 92 Family Swans, an subset of the Bloods gang, and he ordered a fellow member killed because he thought he was gay.

Rawlings was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison without parole for the killing Steven Parrish, 18. Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Robert N. Dugan said Rawlings "ordered this murder with the same casual attitude of someone walking into a fast-food restaurant and order one of the specials off the menu."

The Sun's Nick Madigan reports:

Prosecutors said that Rawlings had demanded that two men kill Parrish after they discovered that he had exchanged salacious phone messages with another man. Rawlings believed that Parrish's apparent homosexuality would "make the gang look weak," prosecutors said.

Parrish, 18, who was about to graduate from high school, was stabbed and beaten, his head stomped and a red bandana left over his face as a sign of disrespect.

"He was brutally murdered for something that wasn't even true," Michelle Parrish, the victim's mother, said in court on Tuesday. Then, looking directly at Rawlings and in a barely controlled voice, she said, "You chose to take his life … and you deserve what you get."

September 14, 2010

BGF leader who infiltrated anti-gang group to plead guilty

A man accused of running the Baltimore operation of the notorious Black Guerrilla Family prison gang plans to plead guilty Tuesday to a drug conspiracy charge, the AP reports.

Todd Duncan is scheduled for a rearraignment Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court. Duncan's attorney, Robert Waldman, says his client will enter a guilty plea.

Waldman says he and prosecutors will request a 15-year sentence as part of the plea deal.

Duncan was one of 14 alleged BGF members indicted on a racketeering charge, which carries a possible life sentence. The plea deal allows him to avoid trial on that charge.

Court documents show Duncan was dealing drugs and recruiting gang members while working for a city-funded nonprofit intended to steer young people away from gangs and violence.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gangs

July 26, 2010

The death of Stephen Pitcairn and the court system

Stephen Pitcairn had come to Baltimore from his home in Florida, after attending college in Michigan and working with stem cells in Japan, where he became fluent in the language. Here, he assisted with breast cancer studies at the Johns Hopkins University and was poised to enroll in medical school.

He was four blocks from his Charles Village apartment Sunday night when two robbers took his life for cash and a cell phone.

Pitcairn had been in New York, hitching one of the cheap buses to visit his sister, according to a friend. He was on the phone with his mother when police say two robbers approached and demanded money. Police say his mother heard the robbery.

Pitcairn's death is likely to have a ripple effect on the Hopkins community for years to come, but the focus in the short-term at least is likely to shift to the suspects. Records obtained by The Baltimore Sun show that one of the suspects, John A. Wagner, had been charged in April with a robbery where he intimated that he was a member of the Black Guerilla Family gang, which seems tied to just about everything these days. But the charge was dropped the next month at the District Court level after the victim did not appear in court. The case is almost certain to touch off finger-pointing between prosecutors, who say police turn over flawed investigations, and police, who prosecutors are often too quick to roll over and drop charges.

Continue reading "The death of Stephen Pitcairn and the court system" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:44 PM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Gangs, North Baltimore

July 10, 2010

Corrections officer appears linked to who's who of Baltimore criminals

Items hauled out of a corrections officer's apartment before she was indicted in a gang racketeering conspiracy appear to connect her to a who's who of Baltimore criminals.

Authorities say Alicia Simmons, an employee at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, is associated with the Black Guerrilla Family, the gang accused of directing a criminal enterprise from inside prison with the help of corrections staff. In a June 22 raid on her Pikesville apartment, agents seized the BGF "constitution," gang codes written in Swahili and paperwork related to its top leadership.

Simmons, 34, also was in possession of letters, inmate ID cards, debit cards and other correspondence linked to some of the city's most notorious criminals. There's a letter from Kevin Gary, the Tree Top Bloods member known for his tinted red contact lenses, and another from Isaac Smith, convicted in the firebombing of a North Baltimore community activist's home, that discussed Simmons being criminally charged.

She also had inmate identification cards in the names of Johnny "J.R." Butler and Calvin "Turkey" Wright, recently convicted for running a violent east-side drug ring connected to at least two killings; and Ronnie Thomas, better known as "Skinny Suge," the producer of the infamous "Stop Snitching" videos.

To continue reading, click here

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:36 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Gangs

July 6, 2010

Black Guerrilla Family members indicted, RICO-style

The Black Guerrilla Family gang - you remember, the ones the federal authorities claim were feasting on shrimp and salmon, puffing on fine cigars and sipping Grey Goose while directing drug deals and killings from behind bars, a la Goodfellas - are back in the headlines, with state and local prosecutors announcing a racketeering indictment against its top leaders. The indictment renews some already-released allegations as well as some new ones, and adds another corrections official to the mix, charging that she helped smuggle contraband.

The Sun's Tricia Bishop reports: 

"Alicia Simmons, 34, is accused of smuggling cell phones and heroin into prison for incarcerated members of the powerful Black Guerrilla Family, which court documents say has used such connections for years to live luxuriously behind bars and maintain mafioso-type control of its widespread criminal organization.

Simmons is the fifth Maryland prison guard implicated in the far-reaching scheme, which goes back to 2006 and includes a total of 37 defendants charged since last year."

The 23-page indictment unsealed Tuesday supersedes last year's version and builds on it. It describes the BGF as a sophisticated paramilitary operation that kept a "treasury," made motivational T-shirts (slogan: "Revolution is the Only Solution"), held meetings in Druid Hill Park, developed a gang manual, conducted counter-surveillance on law-enforcement agents and paid off prison workers like Simmons with cash and debit cards.

This case has been far-reaching and spawned multiple new stories. After obtaining a copy of the gang's "Black Book," which outlines principles to bring about revolution in the black community but which authorities allege was used to spread its message - The Sun reported that the book contained endorsements from a former mayoral candidate and other educators, who tried to push the book under the nose of aides to then-Mayor Sheila Dixon.

Rainbow Williams, who two days after leading a gang meeting at Druid Hill Park and was found in possession of a handgun and gang literature, was at the time employed by a group called Partners in Progress mentoring city youth.

After the most recent indictment, we took a look at Communities Organized to Improve Life, where authorities say alleged gang member Todd Duncan used gang outreach work as a front to control gang activities. A reference in the affidavit to the East Baltimore Safe Streets program put that group's funding temporarily on ice - they're now back in operation, though several changes were ordered after flaws were found during a review.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:03 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Gangs

June 28, 2010

Inner Harbor shooting started with a bump

Baltimore police charging documents filed in connection with Sunday's Inner Harbor shooting detail a chilling series of events that begins with a petty stare down that leads to five shots fired on the crowded waterfront prominade, and ending with cops shooting at one of the gunmen:

Here are the documents, with the name of the victim blacked out. Police asked us to withhold his name due to concerns of gang retaliation:


Continue reading "Inner Harbor shooting started with a bump" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 4:46 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Breaking news, Confronting crime, Downtown, Gangs

June 25, 2010

Producer of Stop Snitching video sentenced

The Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office announced today the sentencings of two gang members, including the infamous Ronnie Thomas, known as Skinny Suge, the producer of the Stop Snitching videos (link goes to YouTube, video contains offensive language).

In the video, Thomas said, "I can say what I want. F--- the police. F--- Patricia Jessamy. I can't go to jail for that. This is how I feel. What y'all getting me for? Freedom of speech?"  What they got him for was racketeering conspiracy, and he got nearly the maximum sentence.

The video came to symbolize Baltimore's witness intimidation culture, and got NBA star and native Baltimorean Carmelo Anthony in hot water for a cameo. The player later apologized and said he didn't endorse its message. 

Here is the statement from federal authorities:

U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. sentenced Sherman Pride, a/k/a Dark Black and DB, age 35, of Salisbury, Maryland, to 292 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release; and sentenced co-defendant Ronnie Thomas, a/k/a Rodney Thomas, Skinny Suge and Tall Vialz, age 36, of Baltimore, to 235 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for participating in a racketeering conspiracy through the Tree Top Piru Bloods (TTP Bloods), which engaged in narcotics trafficking, conspiracy to commit murder and robbery.  Pride also was convicted of conspiring to distribute cocaine.

“Many dangerous criminals have been convicted and removed from Maryland as a result of superb work by police and prosecutors on the TTP Bloods investigation,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Racketeering cases often are time-consuming, but they make a dramatic contribution to public safety."

"Violent criminals are not only infiltrating our metropolitan cities, they are spreading their destruction to smaller communities,” says ATF Special Agent in Charge Joseph Riehl. “Unfortunately for the criminals, no matter where they set up shop, ATF will shut them down. We are more committed to getting them off the streets, than they are committed to being on the streets.”

For more information:

Continue reading "Producer of Stop Snitching video sentenced" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 3:15 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Breaking news, Gangs, Witness intimidation

June 23, 2010

"Michelle Hell" gets 30 years for racketeering

Michelle Hebron, 25, also known as "Michelle Hell", of Hagerstown and Annapolis was sentenced in federal court today to 30 years in prison for participating in a racketeering conspiracy through the Tree Top Piru Bloods. A piece of evidence in her trial was a poem prosecutors say she wrote after killing David Leonard Moore in 2007:

"I guess just shot a n---a in the head cause he wear blue but claim red

Plus I just wanted the satisfaction of seeing a n---a dead."

 Here's more from the U.S. Attorney's Office's press release:

Continue reading ""Michelle Hell" gets 30 years for racketeering" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 2:32 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Gangs

June 22, 2010

Gang leader sentenced to two life terms; says whole case "made up"

A Baltimore man accused of ordering several murders as a leader in a high-profile gang was sentenced to two life terms in federal court Tuesday, The Sun's Brent Jones reports.

Terrence "Squeaky" Richardson, 30, was convicted by a jury in March of racketeering and conspiring to sell drugs, as a leader of the Pasadena Denver Lanes set of the Bloods. Prosecutors also allege that Richardson ordered several murders, including the execution-style shooting of Brandon Everline in July 2008, incidents U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles heavily relied on in handing down his sentence.

During his sentencing, Richardson denied having anyone killed, reiterating his stance in a three-minute diatribe addressed to the court. He railed against the prosecution, detectives and state's witnesses who testified against him during the five-day trial.

"I sat through this whole trial and watched people lie," Richardson said. "I know they've all been offered plea bargains, and in actuality, the whole thing was made up. … I apologize to my family. And to the [Everline] family, I want to let them know I didn't have nothing to do with their son's murder, nothing at all."

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:17 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Gangs

June 15, 2010

Alleged Patterson Park Bloods leader indicted

The alleged leader of a Southeast Baltimore Bloods gang was indicted by a federal grand jury on drugs and weapons charges, federal prosecutors announced.

Kevin Chambers, also known as “BK” and “Kaos,” is alleged to have led a gang called the Rollin’ 20’s Bloods that sold large quantities of crack cocaine and heroin along Fayette Street, around one of the city’s most persistently troubled areas, and in Patterson Park.

The indictment comes about two weeks after two men were shot within an hour in the nearby McElderry Park neighborhood, and two sources told The Sun at the time that the shooting was believed to stem from a dispute between the Rollin’ 20’s Bloods and a group called the Lueders Park Pirus.

"We are pulling out all the stops to accelerate federal violent crime and gang cases in an effort to head off additional shootings this summer and continue to build on the positive momentum of recent years," said U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein in an e-mail.

Court papers allege that Rollin’ 20’s members possessed and distributed firearms and committed acts of violence, including armed robberies and assaults, though it does not detail those incidents.

Chambers, 29, of the 1100 block of N. Milton Ave. faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for drug conspiracy charges and a maximum of 20 years for gun conspiracy charges.

He was indicted May 25 in Baltimore Circuit Court on several drug-related charges. He was convicted on handgun charges in 2007, receiving a suspended sentence and three years probation, and has prior drug convictions.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:47 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Gangs, Southeast Baltimore

June 2, 2010

One more (two more) shootings -- and gun busts

Coming off a horrific weekend -- and day after --the city appears to be quieting down. Baltimore Police report just one shooting overnight, a man who walked into the Johns Hopkins Hospital emergency room with a gunshot wound. At last report, police were searching for the crime scene.

UPDATE: City police report that shortly after 8 this morning, another man was shot -- an adult male wounded in the leg in the 1900 block of Park Ave. Detectives are investigating at this hour.

That's progress considering 10 people have been killed -- nine shot, one stabbed -- since Saturday, one of the deadliest stretches of violence since 2007. The Sun's crime reporter, Justin Fenton, takes you through the killings (reporting that at least two shootings in East Baltimore are believed linked to a Bloods-Crips gang feud) and I toured nine of the crime scenes on Tuesday. At left, is a photo of a tribute to two men killed at a cookout on Pulaski Street. Police said the shooting started with an argument over someone pulling woman's hair.

This morning, city police announced arresting a man on a search warrant and finding two illegal handguns, 1.5 pounds of suspected marijuana and $1,000. They arrested Anthony Walker, 38, on drug and weapons charges. No further details have been divulged.

And on Monday, police reported seizing a loaded revolver and arrested Shawn Demetrice Jones, 18, in the 400 block of N. Lakewood Ave., and finding two loaded handguns and suspected drugs during a car stop in the 2500 block of W. Baltimore St. One person was arrested.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:56 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, East Baltimore, Gangs, West Baltimore

May 26, 2010

Suspected gang member escapes harsh penalties

The 2007 gang law passed by the General Assembly was supposed to give cops and prosecutors a new tool to end the growing gang problem in Baltimore and beyond. But prosecutors complained that it was so watered down and convoluted it was next to impossible to use.

The numbers over the past three years show this to be true. Only a handful of prosecutors in Maryland have charged anyone and convictions are few -- a guilty plea in Montgomery County, used a leverage to get a plea deal on a lesser charge in Prince Georges County, and only twice used in the city.

One case is pending and the other ended on Tuesday with a familiar tale: a key witness recanted, bringing a jury trial to abrupt halt and prosecutors were forced to offer the 19-year-old associate of Mara Salvatruch, or MS-13, a deal to plead guilty to assault in exchange for a suspended setence and probation.

Had Jose Miguel Hernandez been convicted under the gang statute and of attempted murder in the stabbing of a rival gang member on Pratt Street near the Inner Harbor last year, he could've been put away for life plus 10 years in prison. Instead, he goes home to Rockville to home detention.

Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock gave him the familiar warning: "Take advantage of this." Hernandez assured her that he would.

Here's the kicker to this story: Hernandez's lawyer was none other than Luiz R.S. Simmons, a member of the House of Delegates and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which crafted the very gang law he was defending against in Baltimore Circuit Court. This is the very committee routinely criticized for being over-staffed with defense attorneys accused of molding crime bills to benefit defendants.

Simmons voted for the bill but complained language was overly broad. He feared, as many have, that the law makes mere association in a gang a crime and that anyone can be linked to a gang simply by the way they dress or talk.

It's always humbling for anyone who sits on a lofty perch to get real life expierence. For Simmons, it came before testimony even began, with the polling of potential jurors. The judge asked each if they thought being in a gang was a crime. More than half said yes.

Simmons said that underscored the fear people feel. He said he wants tough gang legislation, just not what is on the books. Even an enhancement passed this year -- one that he supported -- doesn't make the law much better, Simmons told me.

In court, Simmons argued that Hernandez was part of a "political trial" of gangs that went beyond whether he stabbed somone or not. In an interview, he told me he supported revising the gant statute to make it harsher and fairer.

What's on the books now has prosecutors frustrated and impotent.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:56 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Courts and the justice system, Downtown, Gangs

May 19, 2010

MS-13 members to stand trial in alleged gang attack outside downtown club

In a city as violent as Baltimore, there are an untold number of crimes that elude the press as we try to get basic information about shootings and homicides while trying to report on broader topics or delve deeper into individual cases. Here's an example of one that appears to have slipped through the cracks.

Prosecutors say four men from the DC suburbs are due to stand trial Thursday in the stabbing of a woman after a fight inside the Iguana Cantina on April 13, 2009. The Sun has written about violence at the downtown club, which was located in the Power Plant area and has since reopened under a different format. The club was a particular thorn in Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld's side and one of the main reasons he ordered officers to stop moonlighting at city bars.

But this stabbing, which prosecutors say is linked to the MS-13 gang that has terrorized the Washington suburbs, appears to have completely flown under the radar. One of the four men is also being prosecuted under rarely-used gang legislation enacted in 2007. His defense attorney is a state delegate from Montgomery County who sits on the House of Delegates judiciary committee.

According to charging documents, Leonel Herrera, Claudia Ortiz and Vanessa Santos were inside the club when a fight broke out. None of them were involved in the fight, police said, but a large group was ejected from the club by security in trying to deal with the chaos. 

Continue reading "MS-13 members to stand trial in alleged gang attack outside downtown club" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:58 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Downtown, Gangs

Update on Club 410 -- liquor board chair says alcohol illegal

Baltimore's liquor board chairman, Stephan Fogleman, called me this morning with an update on Club 410, the bar that had been padlocked, linked by federal authorties to a drug gang and then ordered to sell its license.

A man who leased the club from the landlord threw a party Saturday night that got busted by police who said alcohol was being served. The man renting the space told me that while he charged a $5 cover, he gave away alcohol for free. He insisted the cover charge was not for the alcohol.

On Tuesday, Fogleman said authorities would have to prove that the cover charge also covered the alcohol in order for it to be a violation of the liquor laws. The owner is forbidden to sell alcohol until he resells the liquor license.

But Fogleman told me this morning that he researched the issue and it is illegal for any alcohol to be served when a cover is being charged. He told me authorities do not have to prove that the cover was for alcohol -- the mere fact there was a charge to get inside means the club owner violated the liquor board rules.

Fogleman's board must approve the sale or transfer of the liquor license, and he told me that this party could pose problems for the landlord.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Confronting crime, Gangs, Northeast Baltimore, Top brass

How hard is it to close a bar?

So just how difficult is it to close a bar?

Last year, after a string of shootings and other drug violence along Belair Road, the cops padlocked Club 410. The manager, a law student, fought back at an administrative hearing, but lost.

Then the feds came and indicted that very same manager as being part of a violent drug gang. She's now in federal lockup awaiting trial. Then the liquor board stripped the owners -- one them a city school employee -- of their license to sell alcohol. They handed the license to the landlord and ordered him to sell it to someone else. Meanwhile, no booze could be sold.

Then, on Saturday, the man leasing the club from the landlord throws a party that the cops bust. Inside, police say alcohol was being sold. Outside, police say, were two security guards impersonating cops and carrying loaded .40 caliber Glocks.

After a story appeared on the arrests of the guards and the police raid, the man leasing the space, Antonio Jackson, called me to complain. The party, he was, was a private affair for Morgan State University students. There weren't 350 inside, as police told me, but 176, the number of tickets he had printed.

Tickets? For a private party?

Yep, he told me he charged $5 a person for a cover charge. But he insisted the money wasn't for alcohol. He limited each patron to one drink. Had the money been for alcohol, his landlord would run afoul of state liquor laws. It's a close call, the liquor board chairman told me, and difficult to prove that the cover went for beer.

But who throws a college party and charges students $5 to get in and gives them only one beer? And what college student would come?

To prove he's on the up-and-up, Jackson stopped by the The Baltimore Sun lobby on Tuesday to show me his lease and other documents. His occupany permit lists the old Club 410 as the new Klub Kidz, listed as a dance studio for children ages 4 to 16.

And so the first event he throws is a beer party for college graduates.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Confronting crime, Gangs, Northeast Baltimore

May 10, 2010

More twists and turns in the killing of Gerrod Finch

The stabbing death of 21-year-old Gerrod Finch last year in West Baltimore may be a perfect example of how a case is far from closed after police make an arrest.

When police got to the scene June 30, 2009, they found a blood trail leading from a vehicle and Finch lying in a supine position. Girlfriend Tanaya Salter, 21, said the pair got into an argument in the 600 block of Wheeler Ave. that caught the attention of some nearby men, who surrounded Finch and stabbed him.

But detectives noticed inconsistencies between Salter's account and that of other witnesses. Salter waived her rights and signed a taped statement, confessing that she stabbed Finch as he struck her during an alcohol-fueled argument inside the vehicle.

Authorities weren't sure at first if the new account — involving allegations of domestic violence and self-defense — merited criminal charges at all. But they would charge Salter with manslaughter, saying she had an opportunity to leave the argument but instead escalated it, "which inevitably caused the death of Mr. Finch," Detective Michael Moran wrote in charging documents.

Now, there's been another twist in the case. Salter has been cleared. And three men, at least one who police say has ties to the Bloods gang, have been indicted in the killing.

The current account is more similar to the original: Police say Derrean "Dizzy" Mills, 17, Montell "Cannibal" Mills, 17, and Mishael Belcher, 20, approached Finch's vehicle while he and Salter were arguing and assaulted him. Belcher is accused of stabbing Finch after he climbed out of the vehicle.

Follow the link for an account of witness intimidation related to the case that police say occurred at a downtown bus stop. 

[This entry has been updated since it was originally posted]

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:35 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Downtown, Gangs, West Baltimore, Witness intimidation

May 7, 2010

Safe Streets reactivated; alleged gang leader pleads not guilty

A task force appointed to review the operations of a government-funded anti-violence program could not substantiate allegations that the group was taking cues from a powerful gang, but found flaws in the oversight of the Safe Streets program and recommends that control be shifted away from the city. Responding to the report, Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake lifted a funding freeze on the programs. Safe Streets - Photo by Ken Lam

The panel’s report was released the same day an alleged leader of the Black Guerrilla Family, accused of using violence outreach work as a cover for drug-dealing and gang activities, made his first appearance in federal court.

Todd Duncan, 36, pleaded not guilty to heroin conspiracy charges at a brief hearing in US. District Court. Duncan was hired through the Safe Streets process in 2007 when the non-profit Communities Organized to Improve Life was chosen to operate a West Baltimore site. Though the group’s funding was terminated a year later due to non-compliance, COIL continued to perform outreach work independently, officials said.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 8:03 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: City Hall, East Baltimore, Gangs, South Baltimore, West Baltimore

April 28, 2010

City task force meeting to examine Safe Streets

I was due to appear on WYPR today to discuss the Safe Streets program, which had $1 million in grant funding suspended after an unrelated-but-related program was alleged to be a front for a gang member's criminal activity. But producers told me that the appearance had to be postponed because Safe Street supervisor Gardnel Carter is meeting today with a task force of city officials to review its operations.

A refresher: in 2007, officials sought to bring a successful violence intervention program called Safe Streets to Baltimore by hiring ex-cons and reformed gang members to mediate disputes using their street credibility and a healthy dose of anonymity. Officials targeted several areas in the city to implement the program, each to be overseen by a different organization. Communities Organized to Improve Life was selected to oversee a West Baltimore site, and outreach workers were hired under a strict process that included the health and police departments. A year later, COIL's funding was cut off due to non-compliance, but they continued to perform gang outreach work. Earlier this month, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration alleged in court papers that Todd Duncan, a COIL outreach worker, was a Black Guerrilla Family gang leader who used his COIL work to make his interaction with gang members and drug dealers appear legitimate.  Within those court papers, there was a single allegation that a current city Safe Streets site in East Baltimore was also tied to the BGF. No one from that site was charged, and they vehemently deny the allegation.

After the indictment, Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake suspended $1 million in Department of Justice grant funding for Safe Streets pending a thorough review, causing the program to shut its doors and cease formal operations.

According to the mayor's spokesman, the task force members conducting the review are: Deputy Mayor Chris Thomaskutty, director of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice Sheryl Goldstein, acting health commissioner Olivia Farrow, Dr. Daniel Webster, of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Lt. Col. Rick Hite, who last year retired from the Baltimore Police Department.

Required reading: the CityPaper reports on the federal indictment in this week's issue; a previous blog entry with interesting excerpts from the 164-page search warrant affidavit.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 11:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gangs

Violent crime busts in Arundel

Some breaking news out of Anne Arundel County police.

Authorities just announced arrests in a 6-month investigation into drugs and shootings in the Brooklyn Park area:

The operation initiated in October of 2009 and concluded in April of 2010 with the objectives of identifying and targeting offenders involved in street level drug violations and illegal gang activity, gathering criminal intelligence and developing investigative leads pertaining to other criminal activity, and reducing violent crime in the area while increasing safety and security for the residents of Brooklyn Park.
 During the course of the investigation, eight search warrants were executed on residences and two search warrants were executed on vehicles. Information was submitted to the State’s Attorney’s Office on two of the residences for possible nuisance house violations as these addresses have had multiple drug and nuisance complaints in recent years.

We've uploaded pictures of the suspects. More from the police statement:

Continue reading "Violent crime busts in Arundel" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:30 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Anne Arundel County, Breaking news, Confronting crime, Gangs

April 12, 2010

DEA: Gang infiltrated youth outreach work

A new federal indictment alleges the notorious Black Guerrilla Family regrouped after last year's sweeping indictments, anointing a new street leader who used his employment as a youth outreach worker as a cover. The wiretap investigation cites confidential informants who claim the program and others like it are affiliated with the BGF and exist to set gang members up with jobs to conceal their criminal activities.

Shortly after the records became public, Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake announced that she was suspending funding for Safe Streets violent intervention programs across the city. Just last month, Rawlings-Blake had committed $1 million to the East Baltimore Safe Streets program, which is not a part of the indictment but is referenced in an affidavit. Safe Streets has been credited with driving down shootings.

The central focus of Monday's indictment is Todd Duncan, a convicted murderer and alleged BGF member who works for Communities Organized to Improve Life, Inc., which runs a West Baltimore outreach center. COIL received $383,000 in federal grants in 2007 to start up a west side Safe Streets office, but their contract was terminated after about a year, officials said. Duncan was hired as part of that process and remained on board after the program was de-funded, continuing the same work.

The indictment calls more attention to the apparent resiliency of these gangs, as well as their ability to infiltrate legitimate enterprises. The Sun wrote last year about a group of educators who endorsed and taught from alleged BGF leader Eric Brown's handbook; and members of Johnny Butler's drug distribution ring that included a city firefighter trainee, a clerk with the state's attorney's office and Johns Hopkins.

Continue reading "DEA: Gang infiltrated youth outreach work" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:39 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: East Baltimore, Gangs, West Baltimore

March 15, 2010

More on Donatello Fenner and the YGF

The shooting death of 22-year-old Donatello Fenner (left), a reputed gang leader, has sparked safety concerns in Charles Village and fear of retribution by police. Fenner, who was shot in an alley behind a school in the 2600 block of N. Calvert St., had long been on police radar as a "catalyst for violence" in the nearby Barclay neighborhood and in late 2008 was charged with attempted murder. We've obtained charging documents from that case that shed more light on the ongoing violence police believe Fenner was involved with, as we try to determine why his case was dropped in court. It's cliche to say this, but the allegations in the case read like they're right out of a script for "The Wire." Quiet, intimate, chilling.

Police accused Fenner was being involved in a "gang-sanctioned hit" ordered by members of the Young Gorilla/Guerrilla Family and Black Guerrilla Family in May 2008. Charging documents outline how the victim, Neal Davis, was hanging out with someone outside a home referred to as the "Honeycomb Hideout" by members of the BGF and YGF, when the man went inside. Another man, known to him as "Jay," asked to speak with him and ushered him down an alley in the 2200 block of Barclay St.

Continue reading "More on Donatello Fenner and the YGF" »

Posted by Justin Fenton at 6:48 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Gangs

March 12, 2010

Gang initiation killing

A 16-year-old boy has been arrested and charged in what Baltimore police are describing as a gang initation killing in Northwest Baltimore.

The Sun's Justin Fenton reports today that the victim suspect was being initiated into a set of the Bloods gang, but the precise motive for the killing remains unclear. The victim's mother told Justin there is more to the story. The killing occurred on Oakford Avenue on Dec. 29 and claimed the life of 19-year-old Jeffrey Ward.

Also yesterday, state officials testified in Annapolis to broaden the definition of a gang member and add to the number of crimes eligible for enhanced sentences. Here is a statement issue by Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy on the proposed legislation:

Continue reading "Gang initiation killing" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:12 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Gangs

March 3, 2010

Prison, gang reform and other crime news

With the South Baltimore pub crawl stabbing dominating the Internet, just wanted to point out a few other important crime stories of the day:

Julie Bykowicz write about testimony in Annapolis seeking tougher gang laws. Complaining that legislation passed two years ago has resulted in only one conviction (a guilty plea), law enforcement officials including Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy are urging changes to better define gangs and stiffen penalties. (At left, Jessamy testifies in Annapolis on Tuesday in a photo taken by The Sun's Barbara Haddock Taylor).

Continue reading "Prison, gang reform and other crime news" »

February 17, 2010

Governor helps test cell phone jamming at prisons

Gov. Martin O'Malley will be on hand at a federal prison in Western Maryland today to watch the first test of a prison cell phone jamming device. Calls to block cell phone signals in prisons to thwart inmates from ordering hits on witnesses and running drug networks from behind bars is meeting stiff resistance.

Many cell phone companies view the initiative as unnecessary and say it could jam cell phones of legitimate customers outside the prison walls. In additions, some have said it would make the job of corrections officers more dangerous because they too would be unable to use the phones. Above is a picture of confiscated cell phones from a Maryland prison, taken by The Sun's Barbara Haddock Taylor.

In September, Maryland prison officials spent a day testing similar equipment. The U.S. Congress is considering lifting a federal ban on blocking cell phone signals to allow limited deployment at prisons. Maryland authorities say that cell phones are among the items most confiscated from cells.

Here is a statement form O'Malley:

Continue reading "Governor helps test cell phone jamming at prisons" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:14 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Confronting crime, Gangs, Prisons, Witness intimidation

January 27, 2010

Documenting city's memorial graffiti

DISCLAIMER: Some of the photos contained within the link contain explicit language.  

In 1999, Peter Barry began documenting the memorial graffiti he was seeing throughout Baltimore while roaming the city streets.

"Troy was my first, across the street from the Sugar Hill Tavern on Druid Hill Avenue in 'Whitelock City,'" Barry told me. "I asked people, 'You know what R.I.P. means?' 'It's on tombstones!' they said."

"I started to record the images because I felt people were not aware of the scale of the graffiti citywide. I wanted to show the amount, the connection."

With a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, he bought film and scanned images from all over the city. Tombstones, names, birth and death dates, liquor bottle and teddy bear altars, short messages that he calls "utterances" ("Solider from cradle to the grave," "Death before dishonor," for example). He took before and after pictures, of the graffiti tags and attempts to cover them up. One of the photos was taken at a gathering following the 2002 firebombing of the Dawson house - the graffiti was in full view of a ceremony that involved community leaders and elected officials.

 One of the most striking to me, besides some of the messages left on the sides of buildings, was a collection of empty bottles of malt liquor. There must have been hundreds.

Barry said he wrote a note to himself in 2004 when he realized that many residents didn't even realize the graffiti was there: "We must hold the mirror up. There should be no bliss for those who choose to ignore."

"This is why I photograph, to tell stories," he said.

Click here to see Barry's slideshow of pictures. There's 72 in all.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 4:12 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Gangs

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):

Continue reading "Witness intimidation case recalled in drug arrest" »

January 20, 2010

"Stop Snitching" star goes on trial

The Sun's Tricia Bishop reported today that those members of the Tree Top Piru who haven't already pleaded guilty are going on trial in federal court. About 30 members of the gang were taken down in a sweeping indictment nearly two years ago. Among them is Ronnie Thomas, also known as "Skinny Suge" from the infamous "Stop Snitching" DVD that became emblematic of Baltimore's street code of silence and witness intimidation problems.Image grabbed by CityPaper

As Tricia points out, one of the great ironies of the trial is that most of those who took deals did so in exchange for their testimony against their fellow members. Here's the article from when the indictment was first announced in February 2008.  I'd link to the "Stop Snitching" video, but it's easily found on the web and I'm having trouble locating the police department's response, which was called "Keep Talking."

Recently, a man who police believed had assumed a larger role in the gang was shot and killed in an East Baltimore grocery store, and police were bracing for possible reprisals.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 3:38 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Courts and the justice system, Gangs

January 13, 2010

Jessamy to Annapolis to push gang legislation

Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy is heading to the General Assembly session to push for tougher gang laws. In the past, legislators have weakened her efforts to tighten laws and penalties to go after witness intimidation cases.

Here is a brief statement from her office, followed by a more detailed list of her legislative priorities:




Baltimore, MD – January 13, 2010 – State’s Attorney Jessamy is scheduled to attend the opening of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2010 Legislative session today.  Of critical importance to Baltimore is to gain support for revising the 2007 gang statute.  Specifically:


            °           Removing complex language from the current gang definition

            °           Establishing a statewide gang member validation criteria

            °           Adding additional gang related offenses to the list of underlying crimes

            °          Making the penalty for a violation of the statute a true enhancement     sentence. 

Continue reading "Jessamy to Annapolis to push gang legislation" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:26 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Confronting crime, Gangs, Witness intimidation

December 10, 2009

Bloods leader killed; police fear reprisals

A 20-year-old shot to death in an East Baltimore grocery store last week was a leader of an offshoot of the Bloods gang targeted in a federal indictment last year, and police are bracing for possible reprisals, multiple law enforcement sources tell The Baltimore Sun.

Corey Jones, who court records show lived in the 400 block of N. Glover St., was found on the floor of the A&A grocery store in the 2700 block of Orleans St. on Saturday evening, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Jones had a long criminal record, with drug and handgun convictions.

Sources said Jones was a five-star general in the Tree Top Piru gang. Federal prosecutors charged 28 people in February 2008 with participating in the gang, describing it as not necessarily among the city’s largest or most profitable drug organizations, but one of its most vicious. Members gained entry only by committing a violent crime first.

Among them was Kevin Gary, who was known for his red-tinted contact lenses and appeared on the front page of The Baltimore Sun. He was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison in March.

Jones was most recently convicted in May 2009 on two counts of drug distribution charges, receiving nine months in prison. In April 2007, he pleaded guilty to a firearm charge and received a five-year prison sentence, with four years and nine months suspended, and five years supervised probation. He was three times charged with violating his probation.

In February 2006, at age 17, he was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the shooting death of a 16-year-old in a drug dispute; the charges were dropped one month later.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 12:52 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Breaking news, East Baltimore, Gangs

August 18, 2009

No help from victims in Harbor shooting

It should come as little surprise that the two young men who were shot on Saturday at the Inner Harbor are not helping cops find the shooters. "We have two young men who to put it mildly are uncooperative in assisting us in who may have shot them," Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said.

Here are the commissioner's comments on the topic.

The victims are suspected gang members shot by other suspected gang members and the violence again is raising questions about safety at the Inner Harbor. We had a respite from crime at the tourist attraction after a spate of stabbing, robberies and beating that started in April, some of which involved gangs.

Bealefeld talked alot about the Harbor today in meeting with reporters at an event in Pimlico, about whether the community should debate new curfew laws whether more police is the answer:

"I think we're making progress, but as saturday's incident illustrates, we have a lot more work to do. ... it is not necessarily and issue about numbers. It is an issue of what are we doing while we're in that space. I don't just need men and women in uniform standing around twirling espantoons. I need men and women who are vigilient, proactive and engaged. I'm not certain that dumping more manpower into this situation is the answer."

Bealefeld also talked about how he wants his officers to confront suspected gang members:

I think inknowing what i know about Saturday night's incident, that perhaps one of the only entres we had to approach these two groups was they're flagging. Cops ought to know a gang banger when they see one. Some of these guys fly very overt signs or signals to do that. And when we see that, whether it's flashing gang signs or something that somoene wears or a bandana or colored beads, we should respond to that and we should engage. It doesn't mean we're going to arrest everyone we see wearing a Cincinnati Reds baseball cap."

Bloods are now wearing the Reds caps and Crips are into Colorado Rockies.

Bealefeld said that "many of these young men don't even know Colorado is a state in the union, let alone know that the Rockies is a baseball team and they're in the National League and they play in a staduim where they hit a ton of home runs. It's a sign taken up all over the country to signify Crips, all over. This isn't brain surgery. They give us clues and we should act on those clues before trouble starts. Thats what I want my cops to do. I want them to go up and say, 'Welcome to the Harbor. Don't act like a jerk here. We want you to have a good time, but leave all this gang stuff at home. Or if you can't, go back home and we'll deal with you there. You don't get to act like a fool here."

Posted by Peter Hermann at 2:13 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Gangs

July 16, 2009

Gangs and kids

I spent the morning with a group of federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms  and Explosives who were mentoring children about resisting gangs. They've spent a week at New Psalmist Baptist Church on Old Frederick Road as part of a program called Gang Resistance Education and Training, which first started in the early 1990s.

The idea to teach kids in the 6th through 8th grades how to resist peer pressure and how to avoid fights that could lead to violence. They take the kids through various lessons and act out scenarios. At left, ATF Agent Jeffrey Matthews works out a scenario with Naomi, age 11.

One child asked what would happen if he convinced a friend to stay out of a gang, but the gang returned to kill him. Another said an older youth asked him to join the Bloods because he wore a red shirt to school one day, and his friend said 'yes' when a rival Crips asked him to join because was wearing blue.

These agents have their work cut out for them.

The Rev. Julian Rivera then led the kids in a session about jealously and had them read the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. I asked the reverend if it's sad that kids so young need these lessons. He answered, "Some of these kids have worse stories than Cain and Abel."

ATF agents said they've been asked to bring the program to children even younger, some in the 2nd grade. That's pretty said.

I'll have more about this in Friday's paper.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 10:50 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Gangs

July 13, 2009

Gangs in Pen Lucy -- how it all began

With talk of a revival of the Old York and Cator Avenue Boys and the McCabe Avenue Boys in the North Baltimore area, I got this e-mail this morning from a many who says he was there when it all started. At left, in a photo from the Baltimore Sun's Chiaki Kawajiri, is a scene from Pen Lucy in 2000.

And of course it started with a fight over a girl.

The gangs fought it out on city streets for years, culminating in the 1990s with a spate of shootings. Now, police and neighborhood leaders say the groups are all but gone, and talks of them returning are nothing more than young wannabees using the names of the storied groups.

Here is a bit of history from one reader:

Continue reading "Gangs in Pen Lucy -- how it all began" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:46 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Gangs, Neighborhoods

July 10, 2009

Pen Lucy gangs

North Baltimore's Pen Lucy neighborhood has always intrigued me. It's one of those places off the beaten-path (York Road), next to the upscale Guilford community (separated by a wall) and away from the traditional drug neighborhoods in on the east and west sides. Yet is has always been one of the most volatile spots on the city map.

Stories going back to the early 1990s documet fights and shootings associated with two neighborhood groups, which evolved into gangs, called the Old York and Cator Avenue Boys and the McCabe Avenue Boys (a memorial to the neighborhood's dead is at left).

One of the early leaders, involved in a shooting in 1992 that left two people dead, became, according to police, the leader of a notorious prison gang that was recently brought up on federal charges (the very one that smuggled crab meat into their cells and recruited corrections officers to the payroll). Another recent stabbing near McCabe Avenue turf has raised questions of whether the old gangs are returning.

One of the long-time activists, Robert Nowlin, has always been outspoken. He's a blind man who recently lost his son to a car accident in Georgia last year shortly after he had returned from two tours in Iraq as part of the Army. Nowlin told me this week that the neighborhood is better now but he's frustrated by what he sees as police shackled by the mayor and unable to clamp down the way they should.

Still, I saw a different Pen Lucy then I remember, back in the mid-1990s when a South Korean merchant was killed in his store (though for some reason his name is not on the memorial), back when a young man who just got out of jail for a shooting was himself shot by friends of the man he had wounded. "It's the same people over and over again," the major of the Northern District told me in 2000. Now some of those same names are popping up in bigger and bolder crimes (the federal drug indictment, not to mention a man convicted last year of killing a police officer was a member of the old Pen Lucy gangs).

A makeshift memorial honoring the neighborhood's dead is gone, replaced by a more tasteful monument in a park that lists the names of the shooting victims. The neighborhood still looks shabby and dangerous, even if the violence is down. But it's a start.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gangs, Neighborhoods

April 24, 2009

Dead Man Inc.

The History Channel's "Gangland" series focused Thursday night on Maryland's Dead Man Inc., a white prison gang, and the timing couldn't have been any better.

Just yesterday, the City Paper reported on its Web site that federal prosecutors said the Black Guerrilla Family offered DMI $10,000 to do hits on corrections officers and anyone else who helped with or conducted the investigation that led to 24 recent indictments that outlined how the BGF was able to carry out gang business while enjoying a decadent lifestyle behind bars.

"There’s been a hit placed out on several correctional officers named in this kite, and all others involved in this investigation, and that would include prosecutors," a federal prosecutor told U.S. District Court magistrate judge Beth Gesner, according to the City Paper. A “kite" is a letter or note sent between inmates.

Last night's special, which teetered dangerously close to glorification of the violent gang and its activities, featured interviews with members who gave their names and also provided information about the gang's origins and recent upheaval and a power struggle. I checked news clippings dating back several years and could find no real account of how the gang got started, so that special offered insight in addition to letting proud members boast and show off tattoos.

According to the members, the gang was started by a man named Perry Roark, 40, who court records show is from Bel Air and is currently being held at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, known as Supermax. Roark, who is white, wanted to join the established Black Guerrilla Family, and though he was respected and knew BGF members, he was not allowed to join because of his race. So he started Dead Man Inc. in the late 1990s to serve as a white off-shoot of the BGF. The main beliefs were anti-government and anti-religion; homosexuals, rapists and snitches need not apply, members said.

The show also listed two other co-founders - James Sweeney and Brian Jordan - who were sent to facilities in Texas and Louisiana, respectively, to break up the gangs activities. But according to the narrator, that only served to spread DMI's influence. The show claimed that DMI has 10,000 members nationwide.

Among those interviewed on camera from behind prison walls were Ricky Tolson, 30, who said he is an "elder" in the gang, and a man named Kristopher "Little Kris" Horner. According to the state's inmate locator, Horner is being held at the Maryland Correctional Institute in Hagerstown, while Tolson has apparently been released since his interview.

Tolson said DMI was in a recent "downward spiral because of infiltration by a lot of people who shouldn't be involved." Tolson, Horner and another member named William Kern said the gang was being overrun by new members who didn't share the group's core values and wouldn't back up others in fights. Members were committing acts of violence against fellow members, and no one knew who to trust. Tolson displayed scars from a stabbing carried out by a fellow member.

Roark, the narrator said, handed down an edict that members not abiding by the rules, or those who illegitimately claimed membership, had until April 13, 2009 to get out or face consequences.

The numbers are significant - the date, 4/13/09, represents the letters DMI in the alphabet. So if the information is accurate, the gang just last week had a major membership purge.

Law enforcement officers interviewed for the special, whose faces were darkened and voices disguised, said the gang is headed for a turning point. Roark wants to keep the status quo and keep the gang affiliated with the BGF. But Sweeney, who is being held in Texas, wants the gang to move more toward white extremism.

A gang investigator from Anne Arundel County said law enforcement is cautiously monitoring Roark's status, as he is eligible to be released from prison in 2010. Though the gang has been predominately prison-based, the officer speculated that Roark's release could lead to increased presence on the street.

"When the main member gets out and can organize them, that's when people should be worried," the officer said.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:52 AM | | Comments (67)
Categories: Gangs

April 17, 2009

Champagne tastes and drug lord dreams

So, finally, the recession hits Baltimore's drug lords.

According to the feds, one complained he couldn't get lobster and had to settle for salmon with shrimp and crab imperial. And he's is prison!

It's one of the best parts of the sweeping indictment announced Thursday by federal and local law enforcement, and one that captures both the bravado and arrogance of local drug gangs -- in this case the Black Guerrilla Family -- but also our frustrations in that it confirms our worst fears and suspicions.

But it's not the most important part of this indictment, spelled out in more than 100 chilling pages in court papers. It brings together a mind-boggling number of disparate cases, showing links to shootings big and small, and giving us a road map of drug violence that appears out of control and random but is really part of a vast and complex conspiracy that involves corruption of correctional officers who are accused of helping to smuggle in expensive food, drugs and cell phones.

The violence in recent months at the Belvedere in Mount Vernon -- authorities say the drug gang used the condo complex and its array of bars and hidden rooms to meet and plot their next moves. Any wonder why there are loud parties, fights and gunfire outside? Feds say that one meeting never occurred because the suspected dealers overheard cops talking about it on a police scanner.

Police break up a gathering of more than 100 suspected gang members at Druid Hill Park this week -- members of BGF.

The shooting death of former City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. -- this week, a BGF member was arrested and charged with threatening to kill a witness in the case. In state charges filed a week ago, a security officer hired to patrol the Northwood community, where Harris was shot, reported that he was threatened by a man at a shopping center on Cold Spring Lane for helping to identify suspects in the killing of Harris. "Our guns are bigger than your guns," the man said, according to state prosecutors. "You don't want to mess with BGF."

The padlocking of Club 410 in Northeast Baltimore -- After putting up a pretty good defense of her club, saying she promoted holiday drives, but unable to prevent police from closing it down because they say it's associated with violence -- the owner was named in the BGF indictment and charged with conspiracy for allegedly using her club as a hangout for the gang.

Two separate murder cases in Baltimore Circuit Court involve BGF members.

The recent stabbing death of an inmate in a city prison -- now linked to a BGF dispute.

The violence that sometimes consumes this city is not immune from understanding, and can be prevented. But as this indictment shows, it takes more than putting more cops on the street. The drug trade and the corruption that helps fuel it -- that corrections officers allegedly catered to gang members in prison by smuggling in cigars and vodka only shows how deep the problem is -- is as sweeping as it is complex.

I found one of the most interesting aspects of this case to be Club 410. I'm not sure whether the cops that held the hearing and padlocked the club knew about the extent of the federal investigation, though one cop at the hearing did reference BGF in his testimony. Could it be the cops targeted this club to shake things up a bit in advance of more serious charges to come? Or was it two law enforcement organizations going after the same people?

Either way, if BGF is indeed trying to take over Baltimore's lucrative drug markets, this indictment could not only help end that endeavor but also answer a lot of questions about why things happen in this city. People don't shoot each other for no reason outside the Belvedere anymore than in any other neighborhood. Understanding why all this happens is just as important investigating what happens because it may help us to really stop it.

What follows are some highlights from the search warrant application filed by Detective William Nickoles, who works for the Baltimore Police Department and is assigned to a federal Drug Enforcement Administration task force. It reads more like a novel than a court document, complete with narratives of killings, drug deals, violence and sex:

Continue reading "Champagne tastes and drug lord dreams " »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:29 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Gangs
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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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