A 19-year-old Eldersburg man who faced up to life in prison on more than a dozen criminal charges -- including attempted murder and drug distribution -- will serve no more than 15 years as a result of a plea bargain worked out last week.
In exchange for the lighter prison sentence, Gordon L. Cartnail pleaded guilty to manufacturing crack cocaine, illegal handgun possession, and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. All other charges in the three criminal cases against him were dropped.
The agreement, reached Wednesday during pretrial motions, represents one of the biggest victories in recent months for the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force.
Cartnail was arrested in December and charged with attempted murder and drug distribution after a Westminster drive-by shooting.
He was one of four adults and two minors arrested in the December incident. Court records show that as a result of the shooting, police obtained a warrant for a Pennsylvania Avenue apartment said to be frequented by Cartnail. In the search, crack cocaine and equipment to process it were seized.
Court records also indicated that several of the people arrested in December told officials that Cartnail was "the main supplier of the cocaine." The records say officials also were told that Cartnail purchased cocaine "from a Jamaican male in Baltimore."
While he was out on bail in that case, the task force raided his mother's Eldersburg home in March, seizing cash, crack cocaine, televisions, stereo equipment, phone logs and drug paraphernalia, the records say. Both Cartnail and his mother, Estella I. Cartnail, were arrested.
Cartnail has been held in the Carroll County Detention Center since his March arrest; two attempts to have bail set since then were rejected by the court.
In addition to the guilty pleas, the task force also forced Cartnail to forfeit all of the items seized during the March raid.
The charges against his mother were placed on the inactive docket, and she also forfeited items of hers that were seized.
The plea agreement was a surprise to prosecutors, who last month became the targets of a suit filed by Westminster attorney Stephen P. Bourexis, claiming that the task force declined to deal with Cartnail or any other Bourexis client.
The $10.5 million suit is pending. It stems from a bail hearing for Cartnail in which task force members testified to an informal policy of not working with Bourexis or his clients.
The task force started trailing Cartnail after an informant came forward and said that the man "stops at residences in Carroll County and stays for a few minutes before departing," court records show. "This is indicative of drug-related activity."
During the March raid, said task force coordinator and Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III, task force members answered numerous phone calls from people placing orders for drugs.
In the application for the warrant that led to the March search, the task force said Cartnail would wait until he had accumulated $2,000 in cash "from drug transactions" before he would return home and place the money in a safe.
He also kept records of who owed or was owed money, the records show.
"Any time you can stop this kind of activity and put the dealer in jail, you've done the right thing," Walker said of the plea agreement.
Cartnail will be sentenced Oct. 7, and is to be held at the county detention center until then.