George A. Dangerfield Jr. -- the 29-year-old convicted drug dealer who became one of the city's largest slum landlords -- walked into U.S. District Court in Baltimore yesterday to face federal drug conspiracy charges wearing a double-breasted suit and a wide grin.
"Do I look worried?" he asked, laughing. "There's nothing to worry about. Everything is under control."
By day's end, he would leave the courthouse stiff-lipped and ashen-faced.
For the first time, federal prosecutors revealed the sharp edge of their case against him, explaining to a jury of 10 women and two men how Dangerfield allegedly brought pounds of cocaine to Baltimore from New York City.
No mention was made of his Rolls-Royce, his paid troop of enforcers, his portfolio of 125 slum houses -- or the allegations of confidential informants that Dangerfield, convicted of drug dealing in 1995, built his empire on drug profits. Rather, the jury saw only a finely honed attack on his activities as an alleged cocaine dealer.
"More than anything else, this case is going to take you into a world most people seldom have the occasion to visit," said Philip S. Jackson, assistant U.S. attorney, "a world in which the cocaine that would fit in my shirt pocket is worth more than you'd earn in an honest day's work."
Jackson then outlined how Baltimore County Police working to bust a suburban drug ring had tapped Dangerfield's phones and recorded his alleged plan to drive to Manhattan last spring to meet a man known only as "Bando."
On April 23, 1998, a team of officers tailing Dangerfield back to Baltimore listened to his cell phone conversations as he broadcast the results of his trip.
"I just come from the market, man," Dangerfield purportedly said as he tooled down Interstate 95. "This s---'s great. It's gonna be straight, baby."
Minutes later, as he turned onto the Baltimore Beltway and the final stretch to home, Dangerfield found the exit ramp blocked by police, who dragged him from his Audi sedan and searched the car.
"Lo and behold, what did they find in that car?" Jackson said to the jury. "Almost a half-pound of crack and powdered cocaine."
Dangerfield's lawyer, Stephen H. Sacks, told the jury that the tape-recorded conversations contained no overt references to drugs. He said police listened to 1,200 hours of phone calls but could muster only a few minutes of loose talk against his client.
He did not mention the drugs they seized -- which Jackson promised to show the jury today.
"You will see with your own eyes what the police took out of Mr. Dangerfield's car," he said.
As the afternoon wore on, and the expletive-laden conversations droned into the jurors' ears, Dangerfield grew increasingly edgy. He argued with his attorney. He asked to have his mother, niece and girlfriend barred from the courtroom just as the evidence was being presented. The smile gradually slid from his face.
Elizabeth Dangerfield sat outside the courtroom, praying for her youngest child and reading a well-thumbed passage of the Bible, Psalm 35: "Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me."
Inside, Jackson told Judge Andre M. Davis to expect a quick close to his case today. A half-pound of white powder and pellets will hit the table. A chemist will testify that it's cocaine. A police officer will describe how he purportedly took it from Dangerfield's car.
Said Jackson: "I ought to be able to wrap it up by lunchtime, your honor."
Pub Date: 6/16/99