Drug case pits suspect, prosecutors once again Little time served despite many arrests

March 26, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

Walter Ingram has been shadowed by prosecutors since he was a teen-ager. Yet he's spent little time in jail despite a 25-year string of arrests, indictments and felony convictions for crimes ranging from drug conspiracy to murder.

But prosecutors haven't given up.

Ingram, 41, of the 100 block of Village of Pine Court in Woodlawn, was in court again yesterday, where U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul M. Rosenberg ordered him detained without bond on federal charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute.

Ingram's detention comes less than a year after his acquittal in the 1984 slaying of a cocaine dealer in New York.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea L. Smith is familiar with Ingram's past cases -- she successfully prosecuted him once in 1987 but lost on appeal. She said the current case is based only on new evidence.

"We are not rehashing history. We're not interested in history," Ms. Smith told the magistrate judge in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. "This is a brand-new case on Mr. Ingram. He was released last spring in New York, and he walked right into the middle of an ongoing investigation."

She said the new evidence includes wiretaps of drug-related conversations. But in seeking Ingram's detention yesterday, she outlined a history that included run-ins with the law dating back to 1967.

She told Judge Rosenberg that Ingram has had two felony convictions overturned -- for murder and for drug conspiracy. Appeals courts ruled that his right to a speedy trial had been violated in both cases, although jurors convicted him based on the evidence and testimony.

"But for those two technical violations, there would be convictions for Mr. Ingram on his record before this court," Ms. Smith said.

Ingram's court-appointed defense lawyer, Harold L. Cardin, said the reversed convictions should not be held against his client. He said prosecutors have not provided strong evidence in court documents to support their case.

Ingram was arrested March 19 by federal authorities at his home in Woodlawn. A court affidavit said wiretaps on Ingram's phone revealed that he arranged to buy 18 ounces of cocaine last October and that he had bought a kilogram of cocaine last November.

If convicted, he faces a maximum prison term of 40 years without parole.

He has heard that number before. He was sentenced to 40 years in 1975 for the armed robbery of West Baltimore grocery and for a 1972 drug slaying. But he'd only served a few years when the verdicts were reversed by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which ruled that he wasn't tried promptly.

Likewise, a 1987 drug-conspiracy conviction and 20-year sentence in Baltimore were overturned on a speedy-trial appeal.

Other than time spent in prison awaiting appeals, Ingram only served a brief stint for a street robbery committed at age 16 and a year in New York for a 1972 assault charge.

Ingram's uncanny success in court has frustrated state and federal prosecutors.

For example, prosecutors had to drop drug conspiracy charges against him in 1981 when a city Circuit Court judge ruled the testimony of an informant was insufficient to determine evidence of a drug conspiracy. The same ruling irreparably weakened a related murder charge.

A city jury acquitted Ingram in June 1986 in an assault case involving two people who were stabbed with scissors in Northwest Baltimore after a cocaine dispute.

Both victims fingered Ingram as one of the attackers, but his co-defendant pleaded guilty and testified that Ingram left before the assault.

Prosecutors have described Ingram as an enforcer in the drug organization of Kenny A. "Bird" Jackson, who was also acquitted in the 1984 New York murder.

Three other people have been arrested with Ingram in the current conspiracy investigation; two are likewise being held without bond and the third is already in prison.

They are Alvin Steward, 40, of the 800 block of N. Linwood Ave.; Richard L. "Bones" Cherry, no address listed; and James R. "Wy" Dorman, 45, who is serving a sentence at the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown on unrelated charges.

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