Political group's founder pleads guilty in drug case Spencer allegedly heads ring

plea hailed as 'win for citizens'

September 23, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Curtis Allan Spencer, founder of the Friends of Black Annapolitans political group, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court yesterday to conspiracy to distribute less than 50 grams of crack cocaine.

Spencer, 48, the alleged leader of one of Annapolis' largest drug rings, and two other top Black Annapolitan leaders were arrested on federal charges of crack cocaine distribution on March 2 after an eight-month city and Drug Enforcement Agency investigation yielded more than 100 grams of crack bought at locations around Annapolis.

Local law enforcement officials described Spencer's plea as a victory for citizens of the city.

"You have an individual who has been, in the past, very, very elusive," said Lt. Stan M. Malm of the city police criminal investigative unit. "Previous law enforcement agencies have tried arrest him in the past and been unsuccessful. Working with the DEA, we were successful.

"So in that case anything you get is a win," Malm said. "We're taking a drug dealer off the streets for a significant part of his life. This is definitely a win for citizens."

In his plea before Judge Frederic N. Smalkin, Spencer said his involvement with co-defendants Theodore Brown, 44, and John Lane, 41, was wrong but maintained that he was not involved in day-to-day drug dealings and that he was not a "kingpin."

But Spencer decided to plead guilty after learning that police authorities had tape recordings and videotape of him helping officers make drug buys. Spencer's decision was also based on Brown's and Lane's recent guilty pleas to conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine.

They had been expected to testify against Spencer.

"I do this plea so that Judases around me do not have to worry about hanging themselves," Spencer said in a telephone interview yesterday, referring to Brown and Lane.

"I still love them just like Jesus loved Judas after he betrayed him," Spencer said. "Whatever they were going to say, they were just trying to get out of trouble themselves. This is all political. The police went after me because I criticized" the Police Department, he said.

Spencer, who has been under pretrial release in the custody of his sister, will be sentenced Dec. 18. He probably will serve five to 10 years, said Spencer's court-appointed attorney, Richard Bittner of Baltimore.

Spencer's previous criminal record includes a conviction in 1969 for assault with intent to murder a security guard. In that case, he served 17 months in a state prison.

In March raids on the alleged drug ring, police arrested two others on federal drug charges and 13 others on state charges.

Annapolis detectives had long been after the drug ring Spencer allegedly led, which they said controlled the city's public housing communities for more than 25 years.

Police said the ring was responsible for almost 80 percent of the cocaine sales in Annapolis, moving about $20,000 worth of drugs a week.

In the case built against Spencer, police used a confidential informant. Police recorded telephone conversations in which Spencer told the informant he was not involved in drugs but knew people who could sell him some. Spencer then helped the informant and undercover police officers with drug buys from Lane and Brown.

The investigation culminated in a series of arrests. State search warrants were served at a dozen locations, and vehicles, weapons and drugs were seized.

Spencer and his group had deep roots in the public housing communities, especially Robinwood, Eastport Terrace and Harbour House. He sponsored youth basketball teams and bought T-shirts for players.

As a community activist and leader of the Black Annapolitans, Spencer made a name for himself as an outspoken critic of the Police Department.

"Curtis was no kingpin," said Bittner. "There was nothing seized from his home. No ledger book, no vast amounts of money or indicia of drugs found on his home. He did not engage in the wholesale daily repetitive trade of drugs."

Pub Date: 9/23/98

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