Former Harford basketball star pleads guilty in cocaine case

March 10, 1999|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

A former Harford County high school basketball star charged as a kingpin in an alleged drug network stretching from New York to Maryland pleaded guilty yesterday to a lesser drug charge and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison, prosecutors said.

Monroe Charles Brown, 28, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., pleaded guilty before Harford County Circuit Judge Thomas E. Marshall to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine.

Brown, who had been free on bail since his arrest in November 1997, was immediately taken to the Harford County Detention Center.

Brown, an Aberdeen native, had faced 17 drug-related charges that together carried a possible 40-year prison term for his role in the alleged ring, which police said at one point was shipping about a pound of cocaine a week to Harford County for distribution.

Four dozen people were arrested in the case, and 39 were indicted, including former high school classmates and a teammate of Brown's.

Sgt. John E. Burton, supervisor of the Harford County Joint Narcotics Task Force, said the charges resulted from a yearlong investigation during which police tapped telephones belonging to Aaron N. Mathis, 30, of Aberdeen.

Burton said Mathis, a former classmate of Brown's, was the original focus of the investigation but that investigators soon turned their attention to Brown.

"Our primary goal was to discover who was Mathis' supplier and who he was supplying," Burton. "That led us to Brown."

Mathis also was indicted on kingpin charges and is awaiting trial, prosecutors said.

Brown's lawyers sought unsuccessfully to suppress the wiretap evidence. The statement of facts supporting the guilty plea documented four deals between Brown and Mathis involving thousands of dollars in April and May 1997.

Brown, a 1988 graduate of Aberdeen High School, was well known in the community for his skill on the basketball court and went on to become Penn State's seventh all-time leading scorer.

Brown later coached college basketball and was an assistant coach at Marist College in Poughkeepsie when he was arrested.

Brown had requested that he be allowed a week to report to custody so that he could settle his affairs, but that request was denied by the judge.

Pub Date: 3/10/99

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