Awaiting trial on charges that he and his crew arranged seven shootings to avenge the death of a family member, Robert G. Moore plotted from prison to kill two Baltimore prosecutors working to keep him behind bars for life, according to court arguments and filings in the case.
Moore, 45, told people he had taken steps to carry out the plan, which he hoped would scare off witnesses, according to court documents. He even knew that one of the prosecutors was pregnant and threatened to send an associate to the hospital when she gave birth, Assistant State's Attorney LaRai Everett said.
The allegations came during a motions hearing Tuesday for Moore and two co-defendants accused in a nine-month string of revenge attacks that left one man dead and five others wounded. Authorities say the case exemplifies how city violence can spread — and the role aggressive prosecution plays in stopping it.
But James Scott, Moore's defense attorney, said in court that the alleged threats do not help prove the state's case. The statements listed in court records could have easily been the frustrated outbursts of a wrongly accused man, he said.
The alleged threats are also being probed by the Howard County state's attorney's office, which is handling the case to avoid a potential conflict of interest. The office declined to comment on its investigation.
The city case began in April 2011 with a home invasion robbery that led to the stabbing death of Darian Kess, a former high school wrestling star and a relative of Moore's. The next day, Moore allegedly started a campaign against the people he thought were behind Kess's killing and did not stop until the next January.
Prosecutors say they intend to use wiretap evidence and recorded jail calls to help prove their case against Moore, Quincy Chisholm, 22, and Anthony Roach, 36. All three are charged with murder conspiracy and attempted murder. Moore and Roach also face murder charges.
The state counts among its witnesses a number of other people who were charged in the case — including Moore's wife, Sarah Hooker.
Everett argued Tuesday that evidence about the threats shows that Moore knew he was guilty. Attorneys for Moore and his two co-defendants vigorously objected, but a Baltimore circuit judge ruled that prosecutors can discuss the allegations at trial.
The Baltimore state's attorney's office received a letter last December from an inmate who warned them about the threats, Everett said. Moore was already in prison serving a sentence on an unrelated drug conviction; authorities say the shootings continued after he was locked up.
The defendant is "planning to harm you and whatever [prosecutor] was at his last hearing," the inmate wrote, according to part of the letter included in a court filing.
Everett and her colleague, Kelly Madigan — the prosecutor who was the subject of the alleged hospital threat — wrote in a filing that Moore hoped to have them killed to "thwart the prosecution" of the murder case.
Doing so would "deter witnesses from cooperating with the state since they would be intimidated by Moore's willingness to kill a prosecutor," they added.
Scott, Moore's lawyer, argued that any comments Moore made could have been a result of anger and frustration at being wrongly accused.
"The prosecutor's job is inherently dangerous," Scott said, arguing that any threat against a state's attorney should not be given the same weight as one against a victim or witness.
Moore's co-defendants argued that the inclusion of those allegations would unfairly hurt their ability to maintain a defense. Garland Sanderson, who represents Chisholm, said there was no evidence his client had been involved in the threats but that he might be hurt by them anyway.
"This evidence is so explosive that the jury's not going to limit that to Mr. Moore," he argued.
Judge Emanuel Brown sided with the state's attorneys, saying he would permit the jury to hear evidence about the threats when the trial starts, but added that he will also instruct jurors not to weigh any testimony against the other two defendants.
Maryland law allows evidence relating to other possible crimes to be introduced in an unrelated case if it meets a special purpose — in the Moore case prosecutors say it shows he was aware of his guilt — and maintains the ability of the defendant to have a fair trial.
Scott said after the judge ruled that he would consider attempting to call the prosecutors as witnesses in the case.
Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office, declined to comment on the specifics of the case but said the office takes threats against victims, witnesses and lawyers seriously.
The Moore case, which the state's attorney's office said shows its willingness to take on difficult, complicated crimes, has had a long journey to court since the charges were filed in May 2012.
Lawyers for the defendants were prevented from discussing much of the evidence with their clients under a court order, and a number of other people who were originally charged have since agreed to cooperate with the state.
The lawyers for the three defendants argued Tuesday that the state had intentionally delayed the trial in the hopes that other members of the alleged conspiracy would be worn down in jail and decide to flip. They argued that the case should be thrown out because of the time it had taken to get to trial.
"They have used these delays to gain advantage," Sanderson said.
But Madigan said given the number of defendants and voluminous evidence — which includes wiretaps and recorded jail calls —the speed with which the case had been prepared was "fairly impressive."