Four members of a suspected Park Heights gang were ordered jailed until their trial on federal drug charges as prosecutors unsealed a murder indictment against three of the defendants.
The more serious charges -- murder in furtherance of a drug conspiracy -- carry a maximum penalty of death. The indictment was unsealed in U.S. District Court on Friday when prosecutors began to outline their case.
Attorneys for the four men -- Stover Stockton, Elijah Jacobs, Levi Johnson and Antonio Hayes -- tried to convince Magistrate Daniel E. Klein that their clients should be set free until trial.
But Klein disagreed, noting their long arrest records and history of failing to show up for court hearings. "Each defendant poses a risk to the safety of other persons in the community," Klein said.
Baltimore police and federal drug agents arrested the four Wednesday and accused them of leading a violent drug gang that sold more than 2 pounds of heroin a month on a single street corner in Northwest Baltimore.
The raids occurred a day after city, state and federal law enforcement officials announced a plan to curtail gun violence in Baltimore by identifying and targeting the most dangerous people roaming city streets.
A top police commander said she had warned Stockton a month ago that violence needed to stop or the group would face federal prison time, where no parole is granted. Police said that two homicides and several shootings later, they made good on their word.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie M. Bennett outlined a vast drug conspiracy and told Klein that five drug runners and close friends of the suspects' had testified before a federal grand jury and described the suspected operation in detail.
She said the suspected operation began in the early 1990s with the sale of cocaine, then turned to heroin several years later. She said the primary distribution corner was at Park Heights and Woodland Avenue, and the supplier was from New York.
Bennett said each of the suspected top henchman had definite jobs: One took the packages from secret stash houses and filled vials; two others recruited runners and lookouts each day; and a fourth kept a close eye on the workers and controlled territory through force.
She said all the suspects routinely carried guns, some more than one, and one of the informants saw a suspect with a bag containing $40,000 in cash.
The four men were indicted on drug conspiracy charges Tuesday. . On Friday, Bennett unsealed the murder indictment charging Stockton, Jacobs and Johnson in the killing of Quentin Matthews, 31. He was shot in the head on Woodland Avenue on June 23, 1998.
Stockton's attorney, Barry Pollack, argued that the charges outlined only what he called small hand-to-hand drug sales involving his 28-year-old client, nicknamed "Big Ox," and "not that Mr. Stockton is a significant player in any organization."
Kenneth Ravenell, who represents Johnson, 21, said that although his client has been arrested many times, he has only one previous assault conviction. He said Johnson pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors to avoid a trial.
"Police officers tell me that they would keep arresting him until they could get him," the lawyer said. "The government now believes that they have him. Officers are intent on keeping Mr. Johnson off the street."
Klein remained unimpressed, saying that Johnson told the court that he had a low-paying job but had managed to post more than $50,000 in cash for bails in two years.
"That leads me to believe, because he said his only job has been one that earns him $40 a day that he has some access to cash," Klein said. "Where does the cash come from?"
Pub Date: 8/23/99