'Wire' actress 'Snoop' Pearson pleads not guilty in drug case

Baltimore Circuit Court judge sets trial date of Aug. 9

  • Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, the actress who played "Snoop" in "The Wire," is led from The Redwood luxury apartments on Eutaw Street by DEA agents Guy McCartney and Edward A. Marchnko. Pearson is one of more than 60 people arrested Thursday morning in connection with a large-scale heroin and marijuana operation.
Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, the actress who played… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
May 17, 2011|By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, the Baltimore actress who played a ruthless hitwoman on HBO's "The Wire," pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning to drug conspiracy charges and requested a trial by jury, tentatively set for Aug. 9.

Pearson, who appeared in Baltimore Circuit Court dressed in an oversized black polo shirt and baggy jeans, declined to comment Tuesday, saying she would talk "as soon as the case is over with."

She's "letting the lawyers take care of the legal issues and she's doing what she needs to do professionally," her attorney, Benjamin Sutley, said after the arraignment.

Pearson, who turns 31 on Wednesday, was arrested in March along with more than 60 others as part of a state and federal sting dubbed "Operation Usual Suspects." She is accused of bankrolling a drug organization that sold heroin and marijuana throughout Baltimore, though she said at a hearing in March that she was broke.

"Check my bank account; I have no money," she told the judge at the time.

Pearson was originally ordered held without bail after her arrest, though a judge last month allowed her to be released on $50,000 bond and under electronic monitoring so she could travel to Philadelphia for film work.

She declined to elaborate on the project Tuesday, and her lawyer said it wasn't his place to discuss her career.

"I'm not her agent," Sutley said outside the courthouse with Pearson standing stoically at his side.

Sutley said prosecutors have not given him "any facts yet that show that [Pearson's] guilty."

Two co-defendants — Ronnie Riley, 47, and Derrell Coulton, 40 — were also scheduled for arraignment Tuesday and planned to plead not guilty, attorneys said. They received the same Aug. 9 trial date, though Sutley said it was too soon to know if they would be tried together.

He said he did not know of any connection between Coulton and Riley and Pearson.

Pearson's recent life history has been something of a Baltimore-style Cinderella tale, and her latest arrest caused great disappointment among her supporters.

"I'm certainly sad at the news of her arrest this week," David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter and creator of "The Wire," wrote in an editorial published in March. "This young lady has, from her earliest moments, had one of the hardest lives imaginable."

According to her 2007 autobiography, which Pearson co-wrote, and various interviews, she started life as a premature, crack-addicted infant who was placed in foster care. She was raised in one of the city's worst neighborhoods by a pair of loving senior citizens who kept a strictly principled Christian home.

But when she was 12, her adopted father died, and she lost her way. She stopped going to school and began dealing drugs. At 14, Pearson got into a fight with another teen-ager, eventually shooting and killing the girl.

Pearson was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to eight years in prison, where she decided to turn her life around after a mentor — the man who nicknamed her "Snoop" after the comic strip beagle in Peanuts — was killed.

She earned a high school equivalency diploma and was released after serving five years of her sentence.

A random encounter with a "Wire" actor in 2004 led to her getting a shot on the show, which portrayed the city's drug trade and its hold on the economic underclass.

"She worked hard as an actor and was entirely professional," Simon wrote in his editorial, noting that "whatever good fortune came from her role in 'The Wire' seems, in retrospect, limited to that project."

Said Simon: "There are not many roles for those who can portray people from the other America."

Pearson's work on "The Wire" ended in 2008. That same year, police claimed they found marijuana in her possession while serving a warrant against her. She was later found not guilty.

The warrant was for not showing up to court as a murder witness in the trial of a man named Steven Lashley.

According to a police report, Lashley and Pearson got into an argument with three people inside a New York Fried Chicken restaurant in 2005, and Lashley later stabbed the trio, killing one of them.

Pearson refused to testify against him, however, threatening to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if forced to appear on the stand, leading prosecutors to cut a deal against Lashley last year.

One of Pearson's representatives told The Hollywood Reporter that the actress was currently filming three movies, including one in Philadelphia.

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

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