Leaders of rap label to stand trial today

Duo accused of using studio as front in drug ring

December 01, 2003|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,Sun Staff

Two Baltimore men who tried to make it big in the rap music industry through their upstart label Stash House Records are scheduled to stand trial today on federal charges that they ran a violent drug ring, in part from their Hampden recording studio.

Deon Lionnel Smith, 32, and Walter Oriley Poindexter, 28, were charged in July in U.S. District Court in Baltimore with heroin distribution and conspiracy. Both men have pleaded not guilty, and their lawyers have rejected suggestions that the music business was a front for illegal drug trafficking.

Instead, defense attorneys are expected to argue that the men face a predicament familiar to other figures in the rap industry, where stars who rise up from crime-ridden streets often find themselves tainted by friends and associates from their former lifestyle.

In an earlier interview with the hip-hop magazine Don Diva, Smith described himself as the owner of the recording label and discussed turning to the music business as a fast and legitimate path to riches.

Court papers described Smith and Poindexter, a vice president in the recording business, as also cashing in from a bullying, armed heroin business that operated from various locations, including the now-closed studio on West 36th Street in Hampden, and addresses in the 3600 block of Spaulding Ave. in Pimlico and the first block of Wellspring Circle in Owings Mills, Poindexter's last address.

On the street, court records say, Poindexter sold the group's heroin under the name "9-11" and was willing to use violence to protect turf and maintain loyalty within the group. Authorities alleged that Poindexter, also known by the nickname "Fella," shot and killed Alvin "L" Jones on Jan. 22, 2001, because Poindexter believed that Jones had burglarized one of the drug group's stash houses.

The jury in this week's trial is not expected to hear evidence of that slaying. It could be weighed as a factor at sentencing, if the men are convicted.

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