A Baltimore member of a white supremacist group, who is being held on $2 million bail, was charged in city Circuit Court yesterday with several criminal counts related to the mountain of gunpowder he had in his Highlandtown home.
Lovell A. Wheeler, 60, of the 500 block of S. East Ave. was arrested July 1 after detectives and federal agents searched his house and found about 80 pounds of improperly stored gunpowder, 14 rifles, eight handguns, about 100 other firearms in various stages of assembly and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Detectives also seized racist and white supremacist literature from his home and workplace.
Police said they raided the house after receiving a tip that Wheeler - a member of the neo-Nazi group National Alliance - was making weapons in his basement.
Charges against him were brought yesterday by the state's attorney's office in the form of a "criminal information" which is similar to a grand jury indictment.
Charges against him
Wheeler is charged with three counts of reckless endangerment, as well as possession of smokeless powder not stored in its original shipping container and possession of smokeless powder without a required license.
Conviction on the reckless endangerment charge could carry a penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, while the other charges could carry six months in prison and a $500 fine.
Wheeler, who works at a plastics company, was not charged with any firearms violations because he is not prohibited from owning guns or munitions, prosecutors said.
$2 million bail
Even though Wheeler faces misdemeanor charges, he is being held in the city jail on $2 million bail.
Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, said prosecutors and public defenders are asking a judge for a hearing this week to review Wheeler's bail.
At a bail review hearing July 3, defense lawyer Marie-Ann Sennett argued that Wheeler should be released, saying he was a "stable resident" of his Southeast Baltimore community and had lived in his home for the past eight years.
Assistant State's Attorney David Chiu contended that Wheeler should be held without bail, noting the danger posed by the gunpowder and ammunition.
The gunpowder was stored in bleach bottles, antifreeze bottles and paint-thinner cans.
At that bail hearing, court officials - concerned for Wheeler's safety because of his neo-Nazi affiliation - took the unusual step of clearing the courtroom of other defendants.
Charges filed against Wheeler this month in District Court were dropped yesterday and refiled in Circuit Court.
The original charges were dropped because they did not specify people endangered by Wheeler's actions, as required by law.
In filing the Circuit Court charges, prosecutors were able to identify at least three neighbors who said they were endangered by the explosives in Wheeler's home.