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Alleged jail smuggling mastermind to plead guilty, lawyer says

The alleged Black Guerrilla Family leader who is accused of masterminding a sophisticated operation to smuggle drugs and other contraband into the Baltimore City Detention Center will plead guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge, his attorney said Tuesday.

Tavon White allegedly enlisted the help of 13 corrections officers to bring prescription pills and cellphones into the jail while he awaited trial on attempted-murder charges. Prosecutors say he also had sexual relationships with his female co-conspirators and impregnated four corrections officers.

White's plea, which he is scheduled to enter before a federal judge next month, would mark a swift resolution for the man at the center of a case that has raised concerns about the management of the jail. But in his plea agreement, he also raises fresh questions: The document says more staff members were involved.

White, 36, admitted to knowing "many other Correctional Officers involved in contraband trafficking and sexual relations with inmates," according to his plea agreement with prosecutors, which does not identify those officers.

Gary Proctor, White's attorney, said his client had decided he wanted to plead guilty to "at the earliest possible juncture."

"Mr. White realizes the gravity of his actions and wishes to accept responsibility for his conduct," Proctor said.

Erin Julius, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, declined to comment on the plea, citing the federal case and the department's own internal investigation.

Some state lawmakers have criticized the pace of the agency's inquiry. Del. John W.E. Cluster, a member of a legislative commission that is weighing corrections reforms, said the revelation that other officers may have been involved adds to the urgency of the investigation.

"Now that this information has come out, I would certainly hope that [it] has been turned over," the Baltimore County Republican said. "If he's naming names and places, they have a starting point to look to."

Shavella Miles, the security chief at the jail, was forced from her job shortly after the smuggling operation was alleged in a federal indictment released in April. Department officials say she failed a polygraph test. Another supervisor at the jail, who has not been named, also resigned.

Miles, who has not been charged with any crime, is fighting to be reinstated. The department has not responded to her appeal, her lawyer said Tuesday.

Under White's plea deal, Proctor said, White will plead guilty to the racketeering conspiracy charge. When he is sentenced, prosecutors will ask the court to dismiss drug distribution and money-laundering charges.

White signed the plea agreement last week and is scheduled to plead on Aug. 6; he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment. A spokesman with the FBI, which investigated the alleged scheme, could not be reached.

White joined the Black Guerrilla Family in 2000, the plea agreement says, and was a senior lieutenant in the gang at the jail until a promotion to commander in 2011.

As recently as January, White believed he was riding high, according to wiretapped conversations summarized in court filings. "This is my jail," he said. "You understand that? I'm dead serious."

The allegations that he impregnated corrections officers could lead to a stiffer sentence, according to the plea agreement, "because … pregnant women were involved in the offense or received distributions of controlled substances."

A total of 24 people have been indicted in the alleged operation. Several defendants have pleaded not guilty. More are scheduled to enter pleas Friday.

U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander has scheduled trials for next summer.

White is due in Baltimore City Circuit Court on Aug. 8 for a trial date in the attempted-murder case that originally landed him in jail in 2009.

Proctor said he has been in discussions with the Baltimore City state's attorney's office regarding those charges. White was convicted of murder in the 1990s.

Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein, declined to comment.

iduncan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/iduncan

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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