13 people indicted in Baltimore drug ring

1 is in `Stop Snitching'

1 co-owns restaurant

February 03, 2005|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,SUN STAFF

An owner of a popular city restaurant and a man who brandished a handgun in a DVD that threatened informers with death were among 13 people indicted yesterday for their alleged roles in a violent Northwest Baltimore drug gang.

A federal grand jury handed up the 20-count indictment. It charges that from 1995 to 2004, the gang, known as the Rice Organization, distributed 1,500 kilograms of cocaine and heroin. The indictment seeks forfeiture of $27 million in criminal proceeds in addition to houses and luxury vehicles.

One of the men indicted, George Butler, 30, of Owings Mills, appears in an underground DVD Stop Snitching, which was sold on the streets of Baltimore last fall. The video has been denounced by law enforcement officials as a blatant example of witness intimidation.

FOR THE RECORD - Because of an editing error, an article in yesterday's editions gave the wrong address in Baltimore for Downtown Southern Blues, a restaurant linked to the indictments of 13 alleged members of a drug ring. The correct address for the restaurant, which is no longer operating, is in the 800 block of N. Howard St. The Sun regrets the error.

Toward the end of the DVD, Butler speaks to the camera as he grabs a gun from his belt: "We don't talk about what we're going to do. We just do it."

Butler, whose charges include conspiracy to possess and distribute heroin, appeared in federal court yesterday afternoon with five of his co-defendants. A U.S. magistrate judge ordered all six to remain in jail until their next court appearances, on Monday.

Authorities arrested six of the 13 defendants this week, according to Allen F. Loucks, the U.S. attorney for Maryland. By yesterday, all but one of the 13 men indicted were in state or federal custody. Loucks did not identify the man not in custody.

The racketeering organization was led by two brothers from Baltimore, Howard Rice, 38, and Raeshio Rice, 32, according to authorities.

Another defendant, Anthony Leonard, is the owner of The Downtown Southern Blues, a soul food restaurant and bar in the 800 block of N. Charles St., and the Southern Blues carryout on Offutt Road in Randallstown.

Downtown Southern Blues opened in 2002 and became a popular place for political fund-raisers and private parties. In October 2003, four men were shot and wounded and another stabbed after a disturbance began inside the restaurant and erupted into violence on street outside.

Six of the defendants - Leonard, 35, of Elkridge, the Rices, Steven Campbell, 39, Eric Clash, 26, and Eric Hall, 34, all of Baltimore - are charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering.

Those defendants and three others - Keenan Dorsey, 39, and Michael Felder, 39, both of Baltimore, and Chet Pajardo, 36 of Owings Mills - also were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

Charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin were Clash, Hall, Dorsey, Butler, James Jones, 30, Oreese Stevenson, 25, and Robert Baker, 57, all of Baltimore.

Baker is the Rices' father, according to prosecutors.

The Rice brothers and Hall, whom prosecutors called the organization's hit man, have also been charged in connection with two killings in Baltimore. The victims were Dante Green and Marvin Nutter, according to the indictments.

Green, 23, of the first block of Tremaine Court in Woodlawn, was shot several times around 10 p.m. Dec. 16, 1996, in the 5500 block of Gwynn Oak Ave. He was pronounced dead at the scene in Northwest Baltimore.

Nutter, 35, of the 2900 block of Taney Road, was identified as the man found shot to death in a 1997 Chevrolet Malibu about 5:30 p.m. June 22, 2003, at Gwynn Oak and Woodbine avenues, police said.

If convicted on the murder charges, the Rice brothers and Hall could face the death penalty.

The Rice Organization thrived for almost 10 years in the city's Park Heights section and had deep pockets, officials said. Loucks said the gang could be compared with the Lexington Terrace Boys and North Avenue Boys, two especially violent drug organizations recently targeted by authorities.

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