'Jamaican Mafia' trial nearing end Man in wheelchair is at center stage

November 13, 1993|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,Staff Writer

Since late October, most days have begun the same way for Adewale Aladekoba.

Shortly before 9:30 a.m., he arrives at the Garmatz federal courthouse in Baltimore, accompanied by guards, who whisk him into a private elevator to the third floor, then push him in his reclining wheelchair to the end of a long defense table in Courtroom 3C.

For the rest of the day, Mr. Aladekoba listens quietly, gently tugging at a stubble of beard, as former friends describe his command of a major inner-city heroin ring that netted millions of dollars.

Mr. Aladekoba, his brother Victor and three other men are being tried on charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin, possession with intent to distribute heroin and weapons violations.

Police say that the Jamaican Black Mafia, the drug ring, was one of the most violent gangs they have encountered. While the defendants are not Jamaicans, the gang adopted the name to capitalize on the violent reputation of Jamaican drug dealers, prosecutors say.

Police have linked the gang to three murders, the firebombing of a Baltimore City Housing Authority police car and dozens of shootings.

The arrest of Adewale Aladekoba, who was known as "Jamaican Jay" and who has previous narcotics convictions, punctuated this string of violence. Bullets brought him down on Aug. 15, 1992, in East Baltimore after he pulled a gun on a police officer, who shot him four times, leaving him a paraplegic.

The Jamaican Black Mafia imploded after that arrest. At its peak, investigators estimate, the ring sold $40,000 worth of heroin a day from high-rise apartment buildings in the Lexington Terrace and Lafayette Courts public housing complexes.

The government's case, which concluded Wednesday, produced at least two witnesses who came forward despite threats against them or members of their family.

One was Adewale Aladekoba's 17-year-old passenger the night of his arrest.

James Antonio Williams, the passenger, said he had been dealing drugs for two years. After Mr. Aladekoba's arrest, Mr. Williams led police to a safe that contained a gun used in a killing and thousands of dollars in heroin and cash. He also provided details about the drug ring.

Mr. Williams said that nothing in his experience topped the economic opportunities offered by the gang. Within months of being hired, he was promoted to lieutenant, running a heroin operation in the stairwells of a high-rise at a salary of $2,000 a week. Most of it disappeared on girlfriends and clothes, but he had enough left to hire a chauffeur.

He had accompanied Mr. Aladekoba on business on the evening of the arrest. He said the two met with several gang members, who were instructed to go to the Flag House Courts public housing project in East Baltimore and force out a drug dealer so the gang could take over a high-rise building. One worker pistol-whipped the competitor to persuade him.

Shortly thereafter, a police officer, acting on a report of a suspicious vehicle, stopped Mr. Williams and Mr. Aladekoba. Mr. Aladekoba got out of the car agitated and nervous, and quickly got into a scuffle with the officer, police said. During a brief chase, he pulled a gun on the officer who shot him, police said.

Another witness, Melvin Heckstall, was called to testify about how vicious Mr. Aladekoba could be.

Returning from a late-night visit to a neighborhood store, Mr. Heckstall said, he saw a gang lieutenant run from an apartment building and pull a gun as he approached a pickup truck parked outside. He pumped several shots into the truck's occupant, Alexander Morrison Jr. Afterward, Mr. Aladekoba emerged from the building and the men left together.

Mr. Aladekoba had ordered Mr. Morrison killed because he suspected, incorrectly, that he was an undercover police officer, prosecutors contend.

The defense is expected to conclude its case next week.

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