Alleged drug gang members on trial Prosecutors say reputed leader ordered slayings

October 15, 1997|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Claiming "murder was the hallmark of the operation," federal prosecutors began a two-month trial yesterday of 10 alleged members of a ruthless East Baltimore drug organization that has been linked to more than a dozen killings and selling hundreds of pounds of heroin.

The Anthony Jones gang has a history of violence so severe that authorities fear for the lives of witnesses, some of whom have been targeted for execution -- in orders that came from the jail cell of the organization's kingpin, prosecutors said.

"This was all part of a war, a war about how Anthony Jones wanted to be the most feared and most powerful drug dealer in Baltimore," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie M. Bennett, who described Jones' group as one of the most murderous in city history. "In the pursuit of these goals, many people died."

Jones, 24, who once recruited a Baltimore police officer in the attempted killing of a rival drug lord, is not among those on trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Prosecutors elected to try him separately in January.

Seventeen of his alleged underlings have been named in a lengthy indictment charging murder, racketeering, narcotics distribution, kidnapping and firearms violations. Seven of those defendants previously pleaded guilty, many in secret negotiations so that Jones would not immediately know who was cooperating with the government, Bennett said.

The remaining 10 defendants chose to go to trial, maintaining their innocence and claiming that those who pleaded guilty are selling their testimony to the government in exchange for lesser sentences. At least four who pleaded guilty are expected to testify for the prosecution, Bennett said.

The decision by prosecutors to cut deals with some of the defendants was assailed by several defense attorneys during opening statements.

"The government says that sometimes you must stoop down" and make deals, said Stanley H. Needleman, an attorney for defendant Rodney Montgomery. "But sometimes when you stoop down, you can't stand up straight again."

Among those testifying is Elway Williams, Jones' archrival, who allegedly competed for East Baltimore's heroin market. Williams was once shot seven times, allegedly by Jones' drug lieutenants. A bodyguard who was with Williams at the time, Derrick Rivers, was slain in the attack.

Prosecutors said Jones at one point tried to have Williams falsely arrested and turned over to him so he could be killed. Jones offered former Baltimore police Officer Erick McCrary, who was on Jones' payroll, $10,000 to falsely arrest Williams and deliver him to Jones.

McCrary has pleaded guilty and will testify for prosecutors.

Taking the witness stand today will be Daniel "Baby Dan" Ross, one of the gang members who pleaded guilty in a secret arrangement and who is expected to testify that he was Jones' main heroin supplier. During one 18-month period in the early '90s, Ross supplied Jones with 60 to 80 kilograms of heroin, prosecutors said.

Pub Date: 10/15/97

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