As a federal judge handed down a sentence that will virtually ensure Perry Roark spends the rest of his life behind bars, the founder of Maryland's largest home-grown prison gang renounced his association with the group.
Roark, a hulking man known as "Rock," was sentenced to life in a prison Monday for his role in creating Dead Man Inc., an organization of white inmates that prosecutors said has since spread to other states and led to street violence throughout the Baltimore region.
The 43-year-old pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy count in June, agreeing to a life sentence in the process, but said he'd head to his next destination with the gang in his rearview mirror.
"I freely, openly walked away from DMI," Roark told U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett in a Baltimore courtroom. "I don't care or wish to do any more crime. When I go in [to the next prison], I'm independent. I'm not claiming any gangs."
Roark served more than 20 years in state prison for armed robbery and was just days away from being released in 2011 when prosecutors charged him in a killing from the 1990s in Anne Arundel County. Later that year, authorities brought a sweeping federal racketeering indictment that charged him and 22 others with crimes including murder, drug trafficking and extortion.
Those investigations came about in part because authorities feared his release would spur growth of the organization on the streets.
On Monday, Bennett scanned Roark's criminal history and said it was "not really worse than others I see," and noted Roark had an education and had been courteous during his court appearances. He said Roark's crimes pointed to a "fundamental dysfunction" in society.
Roark replied that he was "a clear product of my environment."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Romano asked that Roark be housed in a high-security federal prison in Colorado that he said is home to the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski; Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent who spied for Soviet intelligence services; and members of the Latin Kings gang.
Roark, who is white, developed Dead Man Inc. by merging three other gangs within the Maryland prison system in the late 1990s, after he was rejected by the African-American Black Guerrilla Family gang, investigators have said
DMI began as a sort of white contractor for the Black Guerrilla Family, carrying out killings and assaults in exchange for drugs, and grew into its own criminal brotherhood, looking out for its members' safety and addictions, prosecutors said.
A co-defendant who helped form the gang, James Sweeney, has also pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in Beaumont, Texas, where he has been incarcerated and was also facing a possible death sentence in connection with a separate prison murder.
In letters written to The Baltimore Sun, Sweeney has claimed continuing oversight of the gang and denied statements made by authorities about the group. He sent a letter in mid-December — asking a reporter to hold onto it until Roark was sentenced — in which he denounces Roark as a "snitch" who is "no longer recognized as a leader of member of DMI."
Sweeney said investigators have wrongly described the gang. "As a whole, DMI [has never] had any alliance with the BGF or any other new-age gang or organization, and we never will," Sweeney wrote. "DMI was founded to counter the gang and clique violence against whites. … The truth behind the DMI and BGF deception will be told in due time. There is always two sides to a story."
As part of his plea agreement, Roark admitted arranging multiple murders — only one of which was carried out — and assaults, and to trafficking in illegal drugs.
Roark's attorneys said he never cooperated with the government, and made clear that he was pleading guilty to the counts against him and not implicating others.
"Not to go into plea negotiations, but this was a major point we went back and forth on," one of his defense attorneys, William Arnold Mitchell Jr., told Bennett.
Before the federal indictment, Roark was charged by prosecutors in Anne Arundel County with committing a murder in a state prison in the 1990s. An Anne Arundel prosecutor attended Monday's sentencing and said afterward that the case was dropped after the federal charge and will not be pursued.
A sentencing date has not been set for Sweeney, though his plea also calls for a life sentence. Both faced the possibility of the death penalty had their cases gone to trial.
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