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News Maryland Baltimore Crime Beat

Corrections officer pleads not guilty to racketeering charges

Vivian Matthews, one of 13 corrections officers accused of working with Black Guerrilla Family gang members to smuggle drugs and contraband into the Baltimore jail, pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering and drug charges Friday.

Matthews, who is on pretrial release, said little during the brief hearing, answering the judge's questions with a soft "yes, sir" and declined to comment as she left the courtroom. Her lawyer also declined to comment.

The remaining defendants in the case are scheduled to enter their initial pleas over the course of coming Fridays, an early step in a process that District Judge Ellen L. Hollander has timetabled to last into next year.

The Black Guerrilla Family, under the leadership of inmate Tavon White, smuggled prescription medications, marijuana, cigarettes and cell phones into the Baltimore City Detention Center, according to a federal indictment unsealed in April. White is himself accused of impregnating four corrections officers, who allegedly helped bring in the contraband.

The FBI wrote in filings in the case that Matthews helped White obtain Xanax and Percocet pills to sell inside the jail. Matthews declined to smuggle contraband herself, according to the indictment, but passed it along to another gang member.

Investigators found four bottles of pills and a brown bag containing pills in Matthews' home in the city's Frankford neighborhood, according to court filings.

The case has prompted a flurry of activity from state officials to impose order at the downtown Baltimore facility. But Thursday, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary D. Maynard faced questions from state lawmakers about whether he was moving quickly enough to discover how far corruption might have spread.

iduncan@baltsun.com

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