Drug dealer who became 'snitch' gets light term Leiben testified against ringleaders

June 29, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

The Glen Burnie drug dealer whose inside knowledge of one of the biggest drug rings in county history helped convict its ringleaders got his reward in Circuit Court yesterday -- a relatively short 18-month sentence and the chance to serve most of it at home.

Lawrence C. Leiben, 50, of the 8300 block of Veterans Highway was sentenced to 18 months in County Jail by Judge H. Chester Goudy Jr. after two police officers said his role as a "snitch" in the drug case against James and Roger Emory and their co-defendants would put him in jeopardy if he were sent to a state prison.

Any sentence longer than 18 months must be served in the state prison system.

"Just being labeled a snitch would create a problem," said Detective Michael Chandler, chief investigator in the case, which ended with the arrest of the Emory brothers and eight co-defendants Oct. 28, 1992.

"His safety would be a concern," Detective Chandler said.

Judge Goudy said he would let Leiben work as an engraver during the day and spend nights at the jail. The judge also said he would consider defense attorney Gill Cochran's request that Leiben serve most of his sentence under house arrest if he first completes 90 days with no disciplinary problems at the jail.

The judge said he had considered Leiben's chances for rehabilitation and how much he had helped prosecutors with his testimony.

"There's no question that you helped the state by testifying. And I agree that being confined in a state prison would be far more hazardous to you than someone who didn't have your background," said Judge Goudy, who presided over the Emory trial.

Leiben, who was convicted in the early 1970s on weapon charges and for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, agreed to testify and plead guilty March 19 to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop drug kingpin charges that would have carried a mandatory 20-year sentence. Police also returned Leiben's Porsche and his triple-beam scale.

Leiben said yesterday that he was sorry for what he had done and that he agreed to join in the drug ring only because his laser engraving business was failing and he needed the money.

"I'm very sorry for what I've put everybody through, and I will never do anything like this again," he said. "I didn't feel good about doing it, but I did what I had to do."

In hours of testimony in April, Leiben traced the origins of the alleged marijuana ring to Texas and spelled out the details of the operation in the kind of dry, matter-of-fact tone he might have used to describe a grocery store chain or office supply business.

He told of being paid $5,000 for storing marijuana in his garage and having to spray it with rum to kill the mold.

He testified that James Emory, 47, was the head of the ring and described Roger Emory, 43, as someone who took care of "loose ends" when Philip Dulany, another co-defendant who pleaded guilty to lesser charges, was unavailable.

James Emory was convicted by a jury on three counts of being a drug kingpin and charges of importation of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute more than 50 pounds of marijuana. He was sentenced last month to 25 years without parole.

Roger Emory, who faced the same charges, was convicted by the same jury on a kingpin count and an importation of marijuana charge. He was sentenced to 20 years without parole.

Virginia Watts, the Emorys' mother, said she thought Leiben should have been sentenced to the same 10-year term given to William Bailey Jr., 46, of Annapolis, who was part of the ring and pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute 50 pounds or more of marijuana and conspiracy to import 100 pounds of marijuana or more.

"I think he got off very lightly considering what everyone else got," Mrs. Watts said.

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