3 men indicted in alleged plot to kill federal district judge

April 28, 2000|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Three men have been indicted in an alleged plot to kill a federal judge who was to have presided over their trial on charges of running the Woodland organization, a Northwest Baltimore drug ring linked to two killings.

Charged with conspiracy to commit murder were Stover "Big Ox" Stockton, Levi "Vi" Johnson and Antonio Hayes, who federal prosecutors said used coded language in prison to arrange the hiring of a hit man to kill the judge and prosecutor handling the case.

The indictments were unsealed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, where the men are scheduled to go to trial on murder, racketeering and narcotics charges in January. The case was to begin this month but has been delayed because Judge Benson E. Legg recused himself after learning of the death plot.

Judge Marvin J. Garbis will preside over the trial.

Federal agents discovered the alleged plot shortly after a hit man was contacted, court papers said. Prosecutors say in court papers that the men hoped that killing the judge and prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie M. Bennett, would cause disruption and force authorities to drop the charges against them because of speedy-trial concerns.

Bennett, who remains prosecutor in the case, wouldn't comment yesterday.

In court papers, she said the men conceived of the plan while jailed in the Supermax, Maryland's most secure prison, where they were held awaiting trial for running the alleged drug ring.

"The three defendants were provided with the name of a hit man by a fellow prisoner," Bennett said in a court document. "The hit man was contacted by Antonio Hayes' girlfriend, Keisha Watts, and told that Watts wanted to arrange to have `two houses painted.' "

Cooperating witnesses in the case told federal agents that the term "houses painted" was a code devised by the men and referred to killing the judge and prosecutor.

The men have not been charged in the alleged conspiracy to kill Bennett because she will continue as prosecutor in the case; if that charge were filed, a conflict of interest would result.

Assistant U.S. Public Defender Gary W. Christopher, the attorney representing Stockton, said yesterday that he hadn't seen the indictment and wouldn't comment. Attorneys for Johnson and Hayes also declined to comment.

Stockton, 28, Johnson, 22, and Hayes, 25, are three of seven defendants named in the Woodland drug case, filed last year. Court papers say a drug ring operated in the Woodland Avenue area of Park Heights, killing two people and selling about 2 pounds of raw heroin a month from 1994 to 1999.

The three men, and the suspected head of the organization, Elijah "Jake" Jacobs, 20, were arrested in August as part of Operation Safe Neighborhoods -- a city, state and federal campaign to reduce Baltimore's homicide rate. Each faces life in prison without parole under federal law.

Prosecutors have filed a motion in the case to keep the names of the jurors secret out of concern for their safety.

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