Judge refuses to dismiss death-penalty drug case

CRIME WATCH

December 17, 2005|By MATTHEW DOLAN | MATTHEW DOLAN,SUN REPORTER

A judge rejected a motion yesterday from an often-charged but rarely convicted West Baltimore man who tried to have his death-penalty case thrown out of court because he argued the federal court has no jurisdiction over his "flesh and blood."

Solothal "Itchy Man" Thomas, 29, was charged in U.S. District Court in Baltimore last year with three other men whom federal prosecutors called violent "enforcers" for a marijuana organization. They allegedly shared $10,000 for their suspected roles in killing a Baltimore County man in 2001. Prosecutors say the men were part of a widespread marijuana trafficking organization that supplied various "markets," violently retaliating against those who tried to interfere.

In court yesterday, Thomas quickly read from a prepared script, ignoring pleas from his attorney and the judge to speak more slowly so he could be understood. He called attorneys Arcangelo M. Tuminelli and Teresa Whalen "incompetent" and said he could hire no other attorney who didn't have a conflict of interest.

The case marks at least the seventh time a prisoner from the state's maximum-security prison in Baltimore has tried to argue that the federal courts do not have the right to try defendants, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason M. Weinstein. They argue, so far unsuccessfully, that the court may try them only if they had a contractual relationship under the Uniformed Commercial Code.

In recent years, Thomas became known for his ability to absorb criminal indictments and avoid conviction in state court. He was charged with killing two people and attempting to kill a dozen more. But time after time, he won acquittals or pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and received relatively short stints in jail.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake said yesterday that the case against him would proceed and he would be unable to fire his attorneys, who will continue to represent him. "I think it's extremely unfortunate," Blake said of Thomas' motion. "It's a travesty."

Thomas is scheduled for trial early next year.

matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

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