Canty given life term as drug lord Parole can't be allowed in federal cocaine case

November 09, 1990|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

Baltimore drug lord Tommy Lee Canty Jr., the first drug dealer convicted in Maryland under the 1988 federal "super-kingpin" law, was sentenced today to a mandatory term of life in prison without parole and a five-year consecutive term on a related gun count.

Canty, 24, accused his convicted accomplices of running his citywide cocaine-heroin organization and protested, "I don't think should be getting life without parole."

Canty admitted his drug conspiracy and distribution, but said, "I didn't put out no 150 kilograms. That's why I went to trial, to prove my innocence."

Senior Judge Herbert N. Maletz, who presided over the 55-day trial of Canty and a dozen cohorts -- all of them convicted -- responded, "In my judgment, the number of lives you ruined is incalculable.

"The trial evidence was overwhelming -- overwhelming! -- that you were the kingpin, that your supporters acted at your direction. I find specifically that the testimony established conclusively you were the kingpin."

Maletz also ruled that Canty distributed at least 150 kilograms of cocaine -- more than three times the minimum amount that mandated the life term -- and sharply rejected defense arguments that the no-parole sentence was disproportionate to those of the other defendants.

Defense lawyer Alan Drew said the sentence violates Canty's constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment. He filed a notice of appeal before court adjourned.

Prosecutor Jack V. Geise, who tried the case with co-counsel Andrea L. Smith, told Maletz that Canty "set up the conspiracy, he set up the distribution network, and he put those drugs on the streets of Baltimore.

"Canty touched the lives of many with drugs, and the sentence is clearly appropriate," Geise said. "The court has to assure that the only lives he touches in the future are in prison."

City police Detective Edward E. Fox Jr., a federal drug task force agent who worked on the Canty investigation, said after court, "After 2 1/2 years of investigation and getting these convictions, we've been able to clean up the streets just a little bit. Every little bit helps."

Trial evidence showed that Canty bought cocaine in New York and Miami and heroin in Los Angeles, cut and packaged it in stash houses all over town, and sold it in "New York bullets," glass vials topped by gold plastic caps that became his trademark on the streets.

The trial jury convicted Canty of 16 charges -- including &r conspiracy, distribution, possession and tax evasion -- for leading a drug network that prosecutors said sold 200 to 300 kilograms of drugs in Baltimore between January 1986 and May 1989.

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