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Mobtown Beat

Guerrilla Warfare

24 alleged members of Maryland chapter of Black Guerrilla Family gang indicted by feds

Edward Ericson Jr.
(From Left) Department of Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard, Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy, and Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld at the April 16 press conference.

By Edward Ericson Jr. and Van Smith | Posted 4/22/2009

Federal law enforcement officials, led by Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, staged a triumphant press conference on April 16 to announce the indictments of 24 alleged gang members or associates, including three correctional officers and a former employee of a prison kitchen. High-level federal law-enforcement officials said that the arrest last August of a cooperating defendant led DEA agents to the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF), a fearsome prison gang with a 43-year history of violence from coast to coast.

"The BGF gang is primarily a prison gang that spawned in prison and continues to be active out in the streets," Rosenstein said, praising the work of "more than 100" police and federal agents who investigated the gang. Rosenstein also praised the cooperation federal agencies got from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. "I want to commend Secretary [Gary] Maynard for his commitment to rooting out crime in his facilities," he said.

Officials were unwilling or unable to discuss the local BGF's stature and place within the larger BGF gang, which was founded in San Quentin prison in 1966 by George Jackson, a member of the Black Panther Party. Jackson's political stance and bold exploits--he was shot to death in prison in 1971, while holding a gun--made him a legend in some counterculture circles. Bob Dylan recorded a song in his honor in 1972. More recently, artists as varied as Tupac Shakur, Rage Against the Machine, and Digable Planets paid tribute to Jackson. His two books, Soledad Brother and Blood in My Eye, are still in print.

An affidavit in support of a search warrant for the Baltimore case discusses a book allegedly written by Maryland BGF leader Eric Brown called The Black Book: Empowering Black Families and Communities. The book is published by a Maryland-based company called Dee Dat Publishing, run by Brown's wife, Deitra Davenport, who was arrested in the case. Brown and Davenport also have a nonprofit, Harambee Jamaa Inc., which states in its incorporation papers that its mission is "to improve the lives of our people who are living under sub standard conditions here in Baltimore City. We intend to educate, invigorate and liberate our people from poverty, crime, and prison."

The indictments allege that Brown ran a drug-smuggling, robbery, extortion, and gun racket from behind bars, with Brown's people smuggling heroin and ecstasy into the prison, along with gourmet food, liquor, and cell phones. The feds tapped eight of those contraband phones and eventually raided 16 prison cells and 12 separate homes and apartments in Baltimore City, Glen Burnie, and Gwynn Oak on April 15 and 16.

The case marked a milestone for Project Exile, a multi-jurisdictional effort to take guns and violent criminals off Baltimore streets. Rosenstein praised the 3-year-old program for reducing the rate of shootings and murders. The Exile system, which threatens those caught with guns with long federal prison sentences, has helped police and federal law-enforcement agencies to get criminals talking, Rosenstein said: "Behind the scenes, that's been one of the most significant aspects of the Exile program."

The case against the BGF is detailed in a lurid 98-page affidavit in support of search warrants, which Rosenstein's office released on April 16. Among the allegations:

•Gang boss Eric Brown enjoyed meals of salmon, shrimp, and Grey Goose vodka while incarcerated at the Maryland Transition Center in Baltimore. Brown is charged in the indictment as the leader of the Maryland branch of the BGF.

•A guard named Takevia Smith texted Brown sexually explicit photos of herself on or about Feb. 24, and later spoke openly about prostituting herself in the prison kitchen. She quit after getting searched for contraband, saying on a wiretapped phone call: "That job be cool while it lasted. But that shit like having a McDonald's job, I got to break the law to get money."

•On March 13, several BGF members including Randolph "Uncle Rudy" Edison, Zachary Norman, and Roosevelt Drummond were stopped by police in a car. Drummond had a gun and was arrested; police also confiscated rubber gloves and a mask. At 6:42 p.m. Eric Brown called Edison, who told Brown the bad news: "They pulled us over, right. You know we gonna do something, but the coon that was setting the whole degree up, he's a rat. He set us all up."

•Tomeka Harris was having an affair with Brown in violation of gang rules. Brown talked about smashing Harris' husband's head in with a bottle of Moët and Chandon Champagne. In a phone conversation with Harris recorded on March 8, at about 12:36 a.m., Brown told Tomeka Harris what he would tell her husband, a BGF member who is incarcerated in the Eastern Correctional Institution for voluntary manslaughter: "I'm going to take that Moët bottle and crack you across your god damn head with it and you're gonna go out and I'm gonna beat your, I'm gonna beat the living shit out of you when you out." Tomeka Harris was indicted on multiple charges in the case (see "The 410 Factor," Mobtown Beat, April 22, 2008).

On the day before the press conference, several defendants quietly made their first court appearances. Darnell Angelo Holmes, age 41 and known as "Moe," arrived wearing glasses and a red tank top showing tattoos on his biceps. Described in court as a daily heroin user, Holmes was detained without bail. Another defendant, Darien Larenz Scipio, 47, complained of back pain so severe he could barely stand up, along with diabetes, high blood pressure, and liver disease. He was also held without bail. More defendants made their way to their first court appearances just as the press conference was getting underway. One of them was Zachary Norman, who police stopped last month with two others while apparently on the way to commit a crime. Norman, 52, arrived in court in a wheelchair. He claimed to need methadone for pain management and spasms, telling the judge, "I haven't had any of it today. By Tuesday I could go into a coma."

The first rounds of detention hearings in the case were held April 20, with several defendants asking to be conditionally released pending trial. One of them, 53-year-old Calvin Robinson, was described by his attorney as an employee of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW). His DPW supervisor, Dorothy Harris, was present at the hearing to testify, if needed, as to Robinson's reliability as an employee in an effort to allow his release and continued employment pending trial. U.S. District Court Judge James Bredar ordered Robinson detained, though, noting that his long-ago criminal history prohibits him from having guns, yet when Robinson was arrested in this case, a gun was found under his mattress.

Scipio, who stands accused of warning a co-conspirator to call off a planned drug transaction at the Belvedere Hotel because a police scanner indicated that the cops were onto the anticipated deal, was also ordered detained, though his attorney argued that the charge amounted to "an attempted [drug] transaction, at best." The judge said he agreed that the evidence against Scipio appeared "thin," but found that "the existence of the scanner"--along with a criminal history that "is damning, to say the least"--convinced him that Scipio should be detained.

At the press conference, officials beamed. "We got some great intelligence and we were able to capture some bad guys with guns," said Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld. "It's not going to get better than that."

Additional Reporting by Van Smith

BGF Warrant

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Tags: bgf, black guerrilla family, shadow economy

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