Racketeering, drug trial opens for alleged gang member, dealer

Two defendants are first to be prosecuted among 34 indicted in federal case

March 16, 2010|By Tricia Bishop | tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

Before he was locked up, Terrence "Squeaky" Richardson dealt drugs, randomly robbed people and killed his enemies as a leader of a "violent and notorious gang in Baltimore City," prosecutors said Monday during opening statements in a federal racketeering and drug conspiracy trial.

And after he went to prison, they said, he ordered others to take care of business, directing them over mobile phones that were illegally smuggled into his cell.

"This case is about gangs, drugs and violence," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kwame Manley said in a repeated refrain Monday.

On trial are Richardson and co-defendant Gregory Saulsbury, who is accused of trafficking cocaine, crack and heroin to customers as a "high-end" dealer, which allowed him to drive luxury cars as he made money hand over fist.

Their attorneys said the evidence would not support the allegations.

Richardson is accused of belonging to the Pasadena Denver Lanes set of the Bloods gang, the same group that killed a Baltimore County witness in 2007 and wears its signature red bandannas on street corners throughout the city. He was indicted in May along with 33 other defendants, all of them accused of dealing drugs like Saulsbury, and 23 of them, including Richardson, charged with racketeering for the PDL. Richardson and Saulsbury are the first to go to trial in federal court. The rest are scheduled for court dates later in the year, and about a half-dozen of them have publicly pleaded guilty.

It's likely some of those will turn against their so-called former Blood brothers, testifying for the prosecution. U.S. District Court Judge William D. Quarles listed about 10 of the indicted names as potential witnesses in court, and Manley promised to call gang members and their alleged victims, who will describe beatings with baseball bats and the murder of at least one man at Richardson's direction.

Manley also plans to introduce video showing an armed robbery that Richardson participated in, as well as recordings of wiretapped phone calls.

Richardson's attorney, Pat Woodward, said it was a stretch to call his client "the ringleader" of the robbery and suggested Richardson was all talk.

"My guy likes to talk and talk and talk," Woodward said. "At some point, you've got to ask yourself, 'What's real here?' "

He added that Richardson does not live lavishly as Saulsbury allegedly did. "My man doesn't have anything," Woodward said.

Saulsbury's attorney, Melissa Phinn, said her client "has nothing to do with any gang" and "nothing to do with any violence." The evidence shows that drugs were taken from his home, but it doesn't link him to Richardson or the PDL, she said.

Saulsbury is not alleged to be a gang member, just a dealer, according to Manley.

"In the drug world, Mr. Saulsbury was at the height," the prosecutor said. "He had nice cars, lots of money" and "weight-level customers" who bought by the kilo.

Richardson and Saulsbury were arrested as part of a 17-month joint investigation known as Operation Tourniquet, which culminated in mass arrests across Maryland - and two in California - last May at the state and federal levels.

Much of the information that led to the arrests came from wiretaps secured by the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office. City police and several county departments also participated in the investigation and raids, along with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

There are dozens of street gangs in Baltimore with hundreds of members, half of them belonging to some set of the Bloods, according to data from the University of Maryland.

The gang, with its signature red color, was founded in California in the 1970s and spread eastward as various sets, including PDL. There are several subsets of the PDL operating throughout Baltimore, according to the indictment: the "Devil Lanes" in East Baltimore and the "Low End Lanes" in the northeast, among them.

The indictment chronicles a shadowy gang world with big egos, in which members use code words to describe illegal activity - police are "roscoes" and gang leaders are known as "Big Homey" - and nicknames to identify one another. Members allegedly dealt drugs, traded guns, ordered hits and paid dues to Bloods in California to keep up their good standing.

"It's all a world about criminal activity," Manley said.

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