One of nine people charged in what authorities contend is a huge drug conspiracy turned against two of his former bosses Monday, testifying as a government witness on the opening day of their narcotics conspiracy and weapons possession trial.
At least a half-dozen people have reached plea agreements with the Maryland U.S. attorney's office, including Antoine Boston, who was alleged to have been a drug shop manager for Johnnie "JR" Butler and Calvin "Turkey" Wright. Boston testified Monday to certain heroin dealings with the defendants, whose attorneys worked to discredit him.
Prosecutors contend Butler and Wright ran a violent and well-connected heroin operation on Baltimore's east side, able to sneak drugs into prison, get a heads-up about warrants from courthouse staff and skirt the gun-application process. They maintained expensive cars, including one purchased for $117,000 from a Pittsburgh Steeler player, and cleared hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash each month, according to a federal agent's affidavit.
The men were arrested as part of a series of raids in September 2008 that followed a lengthy joint investigation by state, local and federal authorities. About 20 people were charged in the conspiracy, which was largely documented through wire taps - half at the federal level and half at the state.
A fourth superseding federal indictment, filed on New Year's Eve, charges Wright and Butler with narcotics conspiracy and being felons in possession of a firearm. Butler is also charged with using a gun during a drug-trafficking crime to kill Fernando Rodriguez, who authorities say was his heroin and cocaine supplier. Wright is accused of helping Butler dispose of the body, which was discovered in late 2007 in a minivan in Baltimore County.
Both men pleaded not guilty to the newest indictment during an arraignment last week, on the day their trial was originally supposed to begin. Jurors were chosen at the time, on Jan. 5, but testimony was delayed until Monday.
Butler and Wright are also charged in Baltimore Circuit Court with the murder of Sintia Mesa, the girlfriend of a drug dealer. They are accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing her, then stuffing her body in the trunk of a car parked in Fallston, near the Baltimore County line.
Their state trial is scheduled to begin in April.