Serious gang issue worth being taken seriously

December 16, 2006|By GREGORY KANE

State of Maryland v. Davon Temple."

With those words from the court clerk, the defendant hobbled on crutches to the front of the courtroom. His lawyer, John Deros, was by his side. Temple was charged with a seemingly harmless offense: trespassing on school property. The school was Walbrook Uniform Services Academy. The alleged offense occurred on Oct. 11 of this year.

Assistant State's Attorney Rachel Linhard said that a school police officer hadn't received a summons to testify in the case. She asked for a postponement. Deros offered no objection. A new date was set for Jan. 25.

"Mr. Temple," the judge said, "you'll get your summons in a moment. Then you'll be free to go."

Temple turned and hobbled to a bench to await his summons. A triumphant grin spread across his face. He grinned again as he shook hands with an unidentified man as he left the courtroom.

He wore a tan jacket and blue jeans. His right foot was in a cast. A cell phone was attached to his belt on his right side. We can't be sure if it was the same cell phone that brought Temple his brief moment in court.

Who is Davon Temple? And why should you care that he was charged with simple trespassing on school property? Oh, for two very good reasons.

Think back to April of this year. Two unfortunate souls from Carroll County - Jennifer Moreland and Jason Woycio - had the bad judgment to come to a very bad part of this city. Both were shot to death on Arunah Avenue in West Baltimore. Police suspect they might have come to the neighborhood to buy drugs.

According to city police, a Western District officer approached Temple on the street and got Temple's consent to search his cell phone for phone numbers of suspected gang members. While conducting the search, which was not done with a search warrant, the officer came across the following text message that had been sent from the phone:

"I killed two white people around my way today and one of them was a woman."

Temple was arrested, but the charges were dropped after city prosecutors concluded that the police search of the text messages was illegal, violating the Fourth Amendment prohibition of "unreasonable search[es] and seizure[s]."

I contended then, and contend now, that there was nothing unreasonable about the search.

The key word in the Fourth Amendment is "unreasonable." And the meaning of the word should be in the sense that normal people use it. Not the way defense attorneys mean "unreasonable," which is to say "inconvenient for the suspect."

That search was very inconvenient for Temple, at least for a brief moment. More convenient for him was an interpretation of the Fourth Amendment that would have made even the most liberal member of the Warren Court wince. Temple walked away from charges stemming from the two killings. Yesterday, he hobbled away from a simple trespassing charge, which seems far less serious, until you read the statement of probable cause.

"On [Oct. 11, 2006] at approximately 1400 hours, I responded to [the] 2000 block of Edgewood St. for school police for Crips and Bloods gangs about to fight," wrote Southwest District Officer Derrick J. Dorsey. "Upon arrival to that location I was met with school police C. Havey at Walbrook High School. Havey had several Bloods gang members stopped at Edgewood and W. North Avenue. Officer Havey advised this officer that the defendant, now known as Jerome Randy Lewis, and co-defendant, now known as Davon David Temple, were observed inside Walbrook High looking for Crip gang members that apparently beat up his cousin."

It's not clear if it was Lewis' or Temple's cousin who got the beat-down from the Crips. But Dorsey arrested them both, for a good reason.

"Two days ago at this location," Dorsey wrote, "Crips and Bloods were fighting in the rear school parking lot."

As if we didn't have enough troubles from 250-plus homicides a year, now we have to contend with Crips, Bloods and other gangs. And, according to Margaret Burns, those gangs are in our schools, where we can least afford them.

"Juvenile gangs are in a majority of Baltimore schools," Burns, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, said yesterday, citing city schools police Chief Antonio Williams as her source. "There are 50 gangs in city high schools, with 450-500 members. There are an estimated 500 additional gang members in middle schools."

We can only hope that these are just impressionable kids claiming bogus gang membership to increase their warped notion of street credibility and that the gang problem isn't serious. But Burns said State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy's office isn't taking that view.

"The state is taking these allegations seriously," Burns said.

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