The first convictions and prison sentences were issued yesterday after police raids that sought to sweep drugs from two East Baltimore neighborhoods long under siege by drug dealers and violence.
Three defendants agreed to plea bargains in Baltimore Circuit Court on the first trial date for "Operation Midway" cases, named for March 19 police raids in the Barclay and East Baltimore Midway communities bordering Greenmount Avenue.
Forty-two people were indicted on drug charges before the raids, and all but seven have been arrested. More of those cases are scheduled for trial today.
The stiffest of the three sentences handed out yesterday by Judge Andre M. Davis was a five-year term for Mitchell Allan Addison, 30, of the 900 block of N. Caroline St. He pleaded guilty to three counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Addison sold cocaine to undercover police officers on three occasions during one afternoon, said Jill Myers, an assistant state's attorney who is prosecuting Operation Midway cases. The transactions were made Feb. 5 near the intersection of 20th and Barclay streets.
The other two defendants, Duane Johnson, 18, and Gregory Commodore, 23, were working together in the neighborhood when they sold drugs to undercover officers.
Judge Davis sentenced Johnson, of the 1400 block of Holbrook St., to three years in prison and recommended that officials send him to a prison boot camp. He pleaded guilty to one count of possessing crack cocaine with intent to distribute and one count of drug conspiracy.
Johnson, Commodore and another man were approached at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 by an undercover police officer who asked for "ready rock," a street term for crack, Ms. Myers said.
She said Johnson argued with Commodore about who would sell the drugs. She said Johnson was apprehensive about selling crack to a stranger because he was afraid of being arrested again by an undercover officer. At the time, he was on probation for a drug conviction.
The third man, Victor E. Banks, 18, of the 2000 block of Homewood Ave., handed two plastic bags containing crack to the officer, she said. Mr. Banks has been indicted; his case is pending.
After receiving the drugs, police searched Johnson and the other men and seized 37 pieces of crack from a house used to stash the illegal substance, Ms. Myers said. The sale to the undercover officer and the conversation were recorded by police on videotape.
Commodore of the 700 block of E. 20th St. pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to distribute and two counts of conspiracy in a case that his lawyer, Warren Brown, described as "weak" because his client's involvement was limited. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but one suspended, and was placed on three years of probation.
Judge Davis warned him that he will have to serve the remaining nine years if he commits another offense during his probationary period. "What we're bargaining for is that we'll have one less drug dealer for three years," the judge said.
Sal Fili, an assistant state's attorney, said that police have seen a nearly 300 percent decline in the number of shootings in the targeted communities since Operation Midway.
"The inference that can be drawn from this is that it is having an effect on the community," Mr. Fili said. "There are fewer people [in those areas] selling drugs."