After a long drive from Arizona, prosecutors say, Dmytro Holovko pulled up to a meeting spot on Liberty Road and unloaded hundreds of pounds of marijuana — another successful shipment for a drug ring accused of using Baltimore as a hub in a distribution network that brought in $1 million a month.
Holovko, a 54-year-old Czech national, stands accused of being a courier for the violent organization, in a case that brought a consul from the Czech Embassy to a federal courtroom in Baltimore on Tuesday amid complaints about the defendant's court-appointed lawyer. Holovko has pleaded innocence, and his lawyer has been removed from the case.
The case centers on a woman named Jean Brown who prosecutors allege ran a marijuana operation that led to killings in Mexico, a grisly White Marsh murder and millions of dollars squirreled away in Jamaican real estate.
Prosecutors say that Brown's crew regularly used violence to keep people in line and killed a man named Michael Knight in 2009 because he owed her $250,000. Knight was stabbed to death in the bathroom of a White Marsh apartment and his body was dismembered with power saws, according to court filings.
Holovko is not implicated in the murder, but federal prosecutor Peter M. Nothstein said Tuesday that the organization sent him to Arizona with the money it had taken from Knight to pick up more marijuana.
After dropping off the shipment, he took an Amtrak train to Miami to visit Brown, Nothstein said. It was one of several shipments that prosecutors have described in documents connected to the case.
A lawyer representing Brown declined to comment. Brown has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for an arraignment in Baltimore this week.
Holovko has been in custody since his arrest in New Jersey last year because his wife refused to pledge their home as collateral for his release on bond, according to documents in the case. He has spent part of the time under special protection after he got into fights and hurled racial epithets at fellow inmates, Nothstein said Tuesday.
Reached by phone, Danuta Holovko said her husband was innocent of the charges and that she feared the government was looking for a pretext to take the family's New Jersey home.
"I do not believe in the justice system," she said. "My husband is a scapegoat. They think he's a stupid immigrant who doesn't speak good English."
Holovko is charged with a single drug conspiracy count. A typical trip allegedly involved him driving cash to Arizona on behalf of Brown and returning to Maryland with a cargo of Mexican marijuana, according to court documents. In the trip following the Knight killing, the drugs were delivered to Pittsburgh, Nothstein said.
The evidence in the case mostly comes from 25 or so former members of the smuggling ring, some of whom identified Holovko as a driver, Nothstein said.
"They knew who did what in the organization," the prosecutor said.
Holovko, flanked in court by his appointed lawyer, Joseph J. Gigliotti, and Alice Navratilova, the vice consul at the Czech Embassy, said nothing during the open part of the hearing Tuesday. He peered at Judge Paul W. Grimm over the top of dark-rimmed spectacles.
After a lengthy, mostly closed hearing, Gigliotti was removed as Holovko's attorney, but the defendant has not been assigned a new representative. The removal came after the embassy and a Prague lawyer named Martin Radvan sent the judge several complaints over the past three months.
"Mr. Holovko even questions the extent to which Mr. Gigliotti is working with the prosecution," wrote Frantisek Vintr from the embassy in August.
It is not clear how or why Radvan and the embassy took an interest in the case. But Radvan wrote to the court that he represented Holovko's father. He did not respond to requests for comment and did not appear in court Tuesday.
Radvan studied law at New York University and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1983, records show. An online biography says he acted as an adviser to Marian Calfa, who was briefly prime minister of Czechoslovakia during the collapse of Communist rule there.
Gigliotti declined to comment after the hearing, but he had written in a letter to the judge that he was willing to continue to represent Holovko. In response to a message from Radvan, Gigliotti denies in the letter that he had anything but his client's best interests in mind.
"Perhaps his having grown up under 'communists' is the reason why the assumption is that a [court-appointed] lawyer might not be able to act independently for his client," he wrote. "Quite frankly, I have represented clients more difficult than Mr. Holovko."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun