Drug dealer kept from mother Spencer barred from Robinwood since his conviction

October 15, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Elizabeth Brown is 71, diabetic and uses a wheelchair after a stroke in 1977 and three bypass operations. Because "Ma," as she is widely known, has trouble leaving her home in Annapolis' Robinwood project, she can't see her son.

Curtis Allan Spencer has been banned from the public housing property where Brown has lived for 29 years because of his recent conviction for selling crack. Police say Spencer is the leader of a drug ring that controlled Annapolis housing projects for most of those years.

Yesterday, a group of Brown's neighbors circulated a petition asking housing authority officials to grant an exception to mother and son. City police and housing authorities almost immediately rejected the idea.

"He calls me every other day, but I do miss him," Brown says. Spencer is living with his sister in Arnold while awaiting sentencing. "I talk to him on the phone, but it's not like seeing him. It just makes me feel real bad. I feel bad about what he's done, but I want to see him. He's my son.

"All he would do is come to my house; he wouldn't hang around," Brown says. "I really hope they'll let him come."

Police and housing officials say they are not indifferent to her plight.

They fear that an exception for Spencer, 48, would open the floodgates to other requests and undermine the no-exceptions policy Executive Director Patricia H. Croslan implemented when she took over the troubled agency this year.

Housing authority procedures state: "Nonresidents who are found to be detrimental to the overall quality of life for public housing residents may be banned."

Croslan, who says the petition will not sway her, says that "this is a person who has pleaded guilty to selling drugs. I understand the sympathy for his mother and can sympathize, but my responsibility overall has to be in the best interest of all people concerned.

"And it is the housing authority's responsibility to keep people involved in criminal activity off the property."

The rule has kept Brown from seeing Spencer since a family reunion at the National Guard Armory in July. Wanda Somerville, 43, who lives with and takes care of Brown, says her fleeting visits with Spencer, her brother, have been in grocery stores and restaurants.

"We're not condoning or saying it was OK for whatever Curtis confessed to," says Bobbie Jean Calloway, 37, a 20-year Robinwood resident who led the petition drive. "It's all about allowing him to come visit his mother. Why punish his mom? She's a sweet woman. He's already made her go through the heartache of what he did."

Capt. Zora Lykken, a police spokeswoman, said, "Where do you draw the line? What she [Calloway] is saying is, she's asking us to demonstrate more compassion for a man whose mother is ill. Yes, some people will be very hurt by this, but we have to stand by the rule. We also have to ask, 'Where does the responsibility truly lie?' "

Spencer made a name for himself by coaching neighborhood basketball leagues and criticizing the city Police Department through his political group, the Friends of Black Annapolitans.

Police say he was better known to them as the man behind a ring that made almost 80 percent of the cocaine sales in Annapolis. The ring moved about $20,000 worth of drugs a week until March, when city police and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency finished an eight-month investigation and began making arrests, police say.

In the case built against Spencer, police used a confidential informant. They recorded telephone conversations in which Spencer told the informant he was not involved in drugs but knew people who could sell him some, police say.

Spencer then helped the informant and undercover police officers with drug buys from fellow Black Annapolitans, president Theodore Brown, 44, and treasurer John Lane, 41.

Those March raids culminated in the arrest of Brown and Lane on federal drug distribution charges and 13 others on similar state charges. Lane and Brown have since pleaded guilty to distributing crack cocaine.

Spencer has repeatedly denied being involved in day-to-day drug dealings or being a drug ring leader. He said he decided to plead guilty after learning that police had recordings and videotape of him helping officers make drug buys. Also, lifelong friends Brown and Lane had agreed to testify against him in court.

Yesterday, Lane was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 51 months in jail and three years of supervised probation. Spencer's conviction last month could earn him at least five years in prison.

Pub Date: 10/15/98

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