Inmate's wife gets probation for drug-ring role Baltimore woman is given suspended sentence

December 04, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The wife of a man serving a 6 1/2 -year federal prison term for drug trafficking was sentenced yesterday to three years' probation for taking a minor role in what prosecutors call a huge drug operation.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Michael E. Loney gave Melissa Ruth Rodriguez, 30, a one-year jail sentence but suspended it in favor of probation. The prosecution did not ask for incarceration.

Rodriguez, of the 2100 block of Parksley Ave. in Baltimore, maintained that she was an unwitting participant in a drug ring alleged to have been operated from a Cape St. Claire home and a Severna Park barbershop.

In a wiretapped conversation Jan. 26, 1996, Rodriguez relayed a message to John S. Luke of Arnold -- who prosecutors say told them he was in the higher echelons of a suspected drug operation -- from her husband, Jesus I. Rodriguez, an admitted drug supplier.

In the telephone call, she told Luke that her husband would have "three for you," a reference to 3 pounds of marijuana, said M. Virginia Miles, assistant state's attorney.

Assistant public defender John Gunning said his client was not an integral part of a drug ring.

In October, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute.

It was an Alford plea -- in which she did not admit responsibility but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict her.

Sobbing, Rodriguez, who dropped out of ninth grade because she became pregnant, said she is struggling to raise her five children.

"I'm trying very hard. My children, this is not what I want for them," she said.

Her tearful remarks did not win sympathy from the judge.

Loney told Rodriguez that bringing up children properly, staying out of criminal trouble and being a productive member of the community are expected norms.

"That's what you're supposed to do," the judge said to her.

A federal jury in February convicted her husband of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana as part of a drug ring.

John Baumgarten Sr. and sons John Baumgarten Jr. and Anthony Baumgarten are scheduled for trial on drug charges in connection with the ring in April in federal court in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 12/04/97

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