Alleged gang leader being held in poor conditions, lawyer says

Alleged gang leader being held in poor conditions, lawyer says
Federal authorities charge that Tavon White, an inmate known as "Bulldog," took control of the Black Guerrilla Family gang at the Baltimore City Detention Center soon after his arrival in 2009 on an attempted murder charge. He is seen here in a 2009 mug shot from the Anne Arundel County Police Department. (Anne Arundel County Police Department)

As the alleged leader of the Black Guerrilla Family gang at the Baltimore City Detention Center, federal prosecutors say, Tavon White could get access to pretty much whatever he wanted: drugs, phones, money and sex.

He is now being held under more straitened circumstances at a state prison in Cumberland, according to his attorney, who is asking a judge to reconsider the conditions of his detention.


"The totality of his belongings were as follows: A jump suit, one pair of underwear, shower sandals, a sheet for the bed. Period," the lawyer, Gary E. Proctor, wrote in a court filing.

White is accused of running a lucrative smuggling operation at the Baltimore jail, coordinating with gang members on the outside and corrections officers inside to bring contraband into the jail.

White also had sexual relationships with female officers, prosecutors say, getting four of them pregnant.

The corrections department confirmed Tuesday that officers from other facilities have been working entrance security at the jail. Previously, officers turning up for work were screened by their peers, according to an affidavit in the case. An officer would have three chances to pass through a metal detector before a supervisor would have to decide whether to let him or her in.

But the officers accused of smuggling contraband developed a series of work-arounds to avoid being caught, according to prosecutors.

Sometimes, officers would call one another to check whether internal affairs investigators were at the entrances, according to intercepted phone conversations summarized in the filing.

Other times, they would wait until a co-conspirator was staffing the checkpoint before heading through, according to the FBI.

Union officials said they were not consulted on the new policy. Archer Blackwell, a representative for AFSCME Council 67, said it would be "demoralizing."

"They're just implementing stuff on a whim and not consulting us at all," he said. "I don't think you should throw everyone in the river.

"They're not giving them any breathing room to develop any trust or relationship as a result of this incident."

Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the corrections department, said White's property arrived in Cumberland a couple of days after he did and has been given to him.

Proctor wrote that he went to visit White but was allowed to confer with him for only an hour, and then only through a glass screen.

"It appears possible, if not probable, that Mr. White's continued incarceration by the Maryland Department of Corrections will harm the attorney-client relationship and effective preparation for trial," Proctor added.

The U.S. attorney's office, which is prosecuting the case, has agreed to a hearing on the issue, Proctor wrote, but no court date has been set.


Binetti said prison authorities have been working to accommodate Proctor's requests.

"The warden has been personally coordinating visits and phone calls with the lawyer since White's arrival," he said. "The warden has spoken with his lawyer personally."

"There are normal visiting hours, but because he is a pretrial detainee, his lawyer has been informed — again, personally, by the warden — that he is allowed to visit whenever it is convenient," he added. "Tavon White can also make phone calls to the lawyer as well any time he needs to."

Defendants on federal charges in Baltimore are typically held at the Chesapeake Detention Facility, a state-run facility adjacent to the Baltimore City Detention Center.

In recent days, lawyers for some of the 25 people accused in the case have signed standard agreements with prosecutors that lay out the terms on which they will be able to review evidence in the case.

In an effort to protect witnesses from retaliation, the U.S attorney's office agrees to give evidence to defense teams on the condition that they not provide copies to their clients.