A former gang member will testify in federal court today in the trial of five men linked to Baltimore's "Jamaican Black Mafia," a group that prosectors say built a $40,000-a-day heroin business along with a reputation for ruthless acts of violence.
The group's alleged leader, Adewale "Jay" Aladekoba, has been accused of ordering the death of a man he mistakenly thought was a federal agent and the deaths of two members of his own gang.
Another member allegedly firebombed an unoccupied Baltimore Housing Authority police cruiser in retaliation for a drug raid. And leaders of the group routinely threatened and beat employees they suspected of stealing from the operation, authorities say. Five other members have been killed in street violence.
Although its members are not Jamaican, the gang named itself the Jamaican Black Mafia to capitalize on the violent reputation of Jamaican drug dealers, prosecutors say.
In opening statements yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie M. Bennett said the group built a 24-hour business in the stairwells of the high-rise buildings at Lexington Terrace and Lafayette Courts, with gang members working 12-hour shifts.
More than 50 witnesses are expected to testify in the six-week trial, including several former gang members, some of whom have pleaded guilty to drug and weapons charges.
On trial before a jury under Judge William N. Nickerson are:
* Mr. Aladekoba, 31. He was arrested in August 1992 after he attempted to shoot an officer who had pulled over his car. The officer, who was not injured, shot Mr. Aladekoba four times, paralyzing him. Mr. Aladekoba's companion in the car that night led police to the gang's safe, which contained $19,000 worth of heroin, $18,000 in cash and two guns, prosecutors say.
BTC * Victor Adeniyi Aladekoba, 22, the brother of Adewale Aladekoba. Authorities confiscated 200 grams of raw heroin and three semiautomatic handguns from his Silver Spring home after he was arrested Jan. 5. One of the guns has been linked to the May 28, 1992, killing of Alexander Morrison, whom the gang mistook for an undercover federal agent, prosecutors say. Victor Aladekoba shared the house with Alan Woodrow Webb, 22, who has pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and drug trafficking and is expected to testify today.
* Orlando Duggins, 20; Shawn Hickman, 19; and Mayo Bennett, 27, all alleged gang members. According to prosecutors, Mr. Duggins and Mr. Hickman were lieutenants in the ring. Mr. Hickman allegedly firebombed a housing authority police cruiser on May 9, 1992, in retaliation for the seizure of drugs and weapons during a raid by law enforcement agencies on an apartment on Aisquith Street.
All are charged with conspiring to distribute heroin and possession with intent to distribute heroin in the housing projects.
In addition, the Aladekobas and Mr. Duggins face firearms charges.
Defense lawyers yesterday advised jurors to sharply judge the credibility of witnesses.
"The foundation of the government's case is based on witnesses who have an absolute motive to tell the government anything it wants to hear," said Harvey Greenberg, the lawyer for Mayo Bennett. "They've got a pat line. They're not going to tell the truth."
In addition to Mr. Webb, two others have pleaded guilty to charges for their roles in the alleged conspiracy. Reginald Jones, 20, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin, and Teresa Thorne, 32, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.