Some drug defendants secretly plead guilty Prosecutors fear gang will harm those who cooperate

October 03, 1997|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Several defendants in a federal murder, drug and racketeering case have pleaded guilty to charges, but prosecutors are keeping their names secret, fearing that their former partners in a ruthless East Baltimore drug organization may try to silence them.

"There has been a lot of violence surrounding this organization," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert R. Harding, who will prosecute some of the remaining defendants when the trial begins Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. "Some have pleaded guilty," he said yesterday, "but I'm not going to get into who and how many."

According to prosecutors, the alleged leader of the organization, Anthony Ayeni Jones, won't be one of those tried next week. His trial is scheduled to begin in January.

The organization is one of the most violent in recent years in Baltimore, prosecutors say. They say the group -- 18 suspected members have been named in a federal indictment -- could be responsible for more than a dozen slayings.

Of chief concern to prison officials and prosecutors is retaliation that some gang members attempt to carry out against those who testify or cooperate with authorities in the trial. Prosecutors allege that Jones at one point ordered the slayings of several witnesses and their mothers, even as he was awaiting trial in federal prison.

Those targeted were people Jones believed were cooperating with the government, authorities said. Some witnesses also have received threatening, anonymous telephone calls that

confidential informants said came from the drug organization.

Members of the gang allegedly sold millions of dollars worth of cocaine they called "space jam." The group's prime drug corner was at Chester and East Oliver streets, prosecutors said.

Jones, former Baltimore police Officer Erick McCrary and several others who are to be tried in the case have been charged under the federal murder in aid of racketeering act in allegedly conspiring to kidnap a rival dealer and kill him. They could be sentenced to death.

Jones' brother, Darnell Jones, is named in the same indictment as a suspect in the 1994 drug-related slaying of Keith Westmoreland, who was shot by two people wearing the masks of U.S. presidents.

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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