Two defendants in drug murders whose release on bond last month angered homicide detectives were in the Baltimore City Jail yesterday after being rearrested on new warrants issued by Circuit Court judges charging them with violation of probation.
Ronnie Alexander Hunt and Gregory "Manny" Whyte were rearrested Tuesday by homicide detectives who were angered and frustrated by earlier decisions of District Court judges to release the two men, who were charged with unrelated drug slayings.
At the time of his release in the murder case, Whyte was on probation for a handgun conviction and free on a total of $120,000 bond pending trial on four other charges -- including one for attempted murder.
The second defendant, Ronnie Hunt, was on probation for cocaine distribution when he was again arrested by detectives and charged with killing rival drug trafficker Sheldean Simon in an April 10 gunbattle on North Kossuth Street in Southwest Baltimore.
Yesterday, Baltimore Circuit Court judges who had placed the two men on probation for the earlier convictions ordered them held on charges they violated the terms of
probation. Hearings on those charges are scheduled for June 14.
In the case of Whyte, who is accused of murdering drug trafficker Andre Poole in 1990, Judge John C. Themelis ordered the defendant held without bond; in the case of Hunt, Judge John N. Prevas set a $500,000 property bond as the condition for the defendant's release.
Paul Polansky, the attorney who represented both defendants, argued that such a bond -- which would require Hunt's friends and relatives to post real property valued at $500,000 as collateral -- was impossibly high. A property bond of $500,000, Mr. Polansky told the judge, "is tantamount to no bail."
Judge Prevas acknowledged that the bond was high but said his decision was prompted by the statements of prosecutors, who allege that Hunt had misled pre-trial investigators by providing wrong or differing addresses and also had used a false driver's license with his photo and an alias when arrested by police.
"It gives me great concern," Judge Prevas said of those allegations.
Judge Prevas said after the hearing that he was informed last week by Hunt's probation agent that the defendant had been charged with the murder of Mr. Simon. The agent told the judge's aides that probation officials did not plan to issue a violation warrant until the murder charge was adjudicated.
Many judges and prosecutors prefer to allow new charges to be adjudicated before beginning violation of probation hearings, which can themselves become mini-trials in which evidence of the later charge is revealed and debated before trial on the substantive charge.
In the case of Hunt, however, Judge Prevas said the seriousness of
the crime in which the defendant is charged -- coupled with the fact that he was free on the relatively low bail of $2,500 -- prompted him to issue a violation of probation warrant on his own initiative.
The warrant was actually signed on Friday, two days before the bail releases of Hunt and Whyte by District judges were the focus of an article in The Sun. Accustomed to seeing defendants denied pre-trial release in premeditated drug murders, detectives and prosecutors were critical of the releases, saying that witnesses and informants were now in fear and reluctant to come forward.
"The fact that it was a murder caught my eye," said Judge Prevas. "We were actually going forward before [the article]."
In the case of Whyte, however, detectives and prosecutors managed on Monday to locate several failure-to-appear warrants issued when the defendant failed to show up at court hearings on previous charges. Armed with those, they rearrested their suspect and Judge Themelis issued his own violation-of-probationwarrant and held a bail hearing.
The failure-to-appear charges, coupled with Whyte's multiple arrests since being placed on probation for the original handgun charge, prompted the judge to order him held without bond, according to Mark Cohen, the assistant state's attorney who handled both hearings.
Detectives said that with both defendants now in jail, they will begin to reassure witnesses and potential witnesses and then attempt to strengthen the murder cases against the two men.