Three defendants in a federal murder and drug conspiracy trial have been charged with assaulting federal marshals during a courtroom break in which a confrontation occurred after a marshal stopped the prisoners from smoking.
Marshals subdued the men with pepper spray and have taken more security precautions -- outfitting some of the defendants in the trial with a belt capable of delivering an electrical shock if they fall out of line.
The "stun belt" is used by law enforcement agencies for prisoners deemed highly dangerous.
"It delivers a short, brief burst activated by a remote switch," said Baltimore U.S. Marshal George K. McKinney. "It causes the prisoner to contort and go right down to the floor. It's a safety system for the deputies."
The defendants, Darnell "Mookie" Jones, Warren "Red Dog" Hill and Jerry "Black Jerry" Williams, are suspected lieutenants in the Anthony Jones drug organization, which prosecutors say was one of Baltimore's most murderous narcotics rings.
Arcangelo M. Tuminelli, Darnell Jones' lawyer, said he thought the incident was overblown.
"It was a misunderstanding between the marshals and the defendants, and I don't think it merited a charge," Tuminelli said.
A court affidavit says the assault charges -- which will be the subject of a hearing today in U.S. District Court in Baltimore -- are the result of an incident Monday in a holding cell on the sixth floor of the courthouse. The nine defendants in the case are routinely taken there during lunch breaks in the two-month trial.
Marshals spotted several of the men passing around a cigarette during the break and stopped them. The marshals then "approached the cell to determine what if any contraband was in the cell and what action to take," the affidavit said.
One of the prisoners was strip-searched by the officers, causing the other defendants to "become unruly" and shout obscenities, the affidavit said. Darnell Jones, 21, suspected by prosecutors of killing three people for the drug ring, was then asked to get out of the cell so he could be strip-searched, authorities said.
He refused, prompting a deputy to try to remove him from the cell, the affidavit said. Jones shouted obscenities and shoved the deputy against the bars of the cell, the affidavit said. Williams, 21, and Hill, 24, attempted to "obstruct" the officer from taking Jones out of the cell, according to the affidavit, which didn't elaborate.
Williams is also accused of shoving the cell door against Deputy Marshal Michael E. Amend, the affidavit said. "Deputy Amend's tie was damaged," the affidavit said.
Another of the deputy marshals, Harold A. Goodridge, had a bruised left arm and a "damaged shirt" from the scuffle, the affidavit said.
The three men were charged with assaulting the federal officers during performance of their duties, a charge that carries a year in prison if convicted. Each is facing life imprisonment if convicted in the Anthony Jones conspiracy.
Two of the defendants, Jones and Williams, had been wearing "stun belts" before the incident Monday. Defense attorneys said that because of the incident Monday, Hill and another defendant, Alan Chapman, have been outfitted with the belts. They deliver an 8-second burst of 50,000 volts of electricity.
Pub Date: 11/20/97