`Snitch' DVD star is held

Thomas charged in robbery and assault cases

April 04, 2006|By GUS G. SENTEMENTES | GUS G. SENTEMENTES,SUN REPORTER

A star of the infamous Stop Snitching underground DVD, which glamorized witness intimidation and reflected a powerful anti-police subculture in Baltimore and beyond, was arrested this week by city police, who say they found evidence that he is working on a sequel.

Clues of a new production were found during a raid on a Southwest Baltimore apartment that Ronnie Thomas - known on the street and in the video as "Skinny Suge" - apparently frequented before he was arrested on assault and robbery charges. Police declined to describe what they found.

Baltimore police and prosecutors say they face daily challenges of piercing a street culture that warns against cooperating with law enforcement, and often have trouble getting convictions in court. But city police were quick to note yesterday that two crime victims and a confidential informant were involved in helping police arrest the video star.

"The good people of Baltimore have always known ... that the only effective way to solve their crime problems is to work with the police," said Matt Jablow, a Police Department spokesman. "We have made tremendous progress in getting more people to cooperate with us. No question about it."

Thomas appears in the opening segments of the Stop Snitching DVD, advising "rats" and "snitches" that he hopes they catch "AIDS in your mouth." He also raps about his record label.

At one point, the DVD features National Basketball Association star and Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony, which helped distinguish it from a slew of urban, underground videos that have cropped up in recent years in cities across the country - and for sale on the Internet - that depict gangster life. The DVD also mentions by name two former Baltimore police officers - detectives William A. King and Antonio L. Murray - who are on trial on federal charges of stealing drugs and money from drug dealers.

The producer of the DVD, which is part of a series, has contended the film is a representation of the reality of street life. That producer, Rodney Bethea, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In response to Stop Snitching, the Baltimore Police Department produced its own DVD, called Keep Talking, and law enforcement officials and political leaders have pushed for tougher witness-intimidation laws.

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state's attorney's office, said that witness intimidation is a serious problem in Baltimore.

"We continue to see an escalation in the number of witnesses intimidated or threatened," Burns said. She said the problem is twofold. Prosecutors are dealing with cases in which victims and families prefer to handle disputes on the streets, rather than in the courts. And victims and witnesses who may be willing to cooperate ultimately refuse because the state's system of protecting witnesses is not as strong as the federal system, she said.

"There are people who are willing to cooperate if the state could provide an actual protection model," Burns said.

Thomas was arrested in the 3600 block of S. Hanover St. on warrants charging him with assault and robbery in two February incidents, according to internal police records and charging documents.

While executing a search-and-seizure warrant at his girlfriend's Southwest Baltimore apartment, police said, they found evidence that a sequel to the video was in production, police documents show.

Members of the Regional Warrant Apprehension Task Force arrested Thomas, 30 - who is said to have professed to being a member of the violent Bloods gang, according to police documents - late Sunday with the help of a confidential informant.

"He has that carefree attitude, like he's untouchable, and some people don't put up with that," said Detective John D. Giganti, a Baltimore police member of the task force involved in Thomas' arrest. "I don't know how else to say it," Giganti added. "We need more [informants and witnesses]. People need to realize [that] if they stand up, crime will go way down."

Police had been seeking Thomas since February. An attorney who has represented Thomas did not return a phone message yesterday.

Police charge that Thomas argued with a woman who worked at a store in Mondawmin Mall and beat her. The woman suffered a chipped tooth, a black eye, a cut lip and a broken nose, police charging documents show.

The woman, who no longer works at the store, told police that she knew the man's nickname was "Skinny Suge" and that he had appeared in the Stop Snitching DVD, the charging documents state.

In the second incident, police said that a woman told them that Thomas had robbed her Feb. 18, and she pressed charges against him. A warrant for Thomas' arrest was issued several days later, according to internal police documents.

Thomas was arrested after a confidential informant - a "snitch" in street parlance - tipped off police that he was in South Baltimore on Sunday night. Thomas was also charged with violating probation in connection with another charge. He has several convictions that stem from charges that include drugs and handgun possession, assault and theft, court records show.

Last night, Thomas was being held on $30,000 bail at Central Booking and Intake Center pending a bail review today, according to Burns.

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Matthew Dolan contributed to this article.

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