City drug dealer is sentenced to 27 years

January 09, 2007|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,Sun reporter

Prosecutors failed to convince a federal judge yesterday to impose the maximum sentence called for under guidelines for a major cocaine and heroin dealer in Baltimore.

U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. ordered Raeshio Rice to prison for 27 years on drug conspiracy charges. He could have imposed almost 34 years under the advisory guidelines, which are based on the type of offense and the defendant's criminal history.

Julie Johnson, one of Rice's three attorneys, barely started her presentation before she was cut off by Quarles.

"I agree with you," the judge told Johnson, who had argued for a prison term at the low end of the guidelines.

Later, Rice, 34, apologized to the judge and asked for drug treatment.

While the case had "disturbing" details and the "smell of violence," Quarles said higher court rulings required that Rice's sentence should be limited to the facts laid out in his plea agreement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Levin had asked the judge to consider secret taped recordings made of Rice during the criminal investigation. Those tapes, Levin said, showed a defendant who was intimately involved in drug dealing. The prosecutor called Rice a violent man who only chose to invest in local business ventures as a way to launder his proceeds from illegal drug sales.

Quarles allowed Levin to read a letter from a relative of one of the victims in the case. The aunt of homicide victim Dante Green said the drug operation run in part by Rice had "destroyed my family," holding Rice partly responsible for the death.

In an unusual move at the bench, Quarles also allowed secret sworn testimony from Rice's parents. The judge said he allowed the private testimony because it included personal and "embarrassing" details about their lives unrelated to their son's crimes.

Raeshio and his brother Howard Rice pleaded guilty last year, admitting they imported more than 100 kilograms of cocaine and heroin from both coasts, sold the drugs to dealers on the streets of Northwest Baltimore and hid their proceeds by investing in nightclubs, suburban real estate and high-performance cars.

Twelve of the 13 indicted defendants in the case have pleaded guilty to helping operate a decade-old organization that trafficked in large amounts of drugs in the city's Park Heights neighborhood.

After Howard Rice, 40, pleaded guilty without comment to racketeering and drug conspiracy charges last year, Quarles sentenced him to 30 years in prison.

The brothers were originally indicted on charges of distributing more than 1,500 kilos of cocaine and heroin. Prosecutors said last year that the Rices participated in the contract killings of two men and the attempted killing of a third.

But in their pleas, the Rices took responsibility only for distributing more than 180 kilos of illegal drugs and did not admit any role in the killings. By signing a deal with prosecutors, they also avoided a possible life sentence if convicted of the most serious racketeering charges.

Court papers allege that the hit man for the Rice organization was Eric Hall.

Hall, 35, of Baltimore, is scheduled for a death-penalty trial in October. Prosecutors charged Hall with the killings of Green in 1996 and Marvin Nutter in 2003. Court papers filed yesterday also accuse him in two other killings.

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