Witness says death threat made in court 'I'm going to kill your family,' defendant allegedly warned; Jones is suspected hit man; He played key role in drug conspiracy, prosecutors say

During a short break in a federal murder and racketeering trial, a suspected hit man for one of Baltimore's most ruthless drug organizations told a key witness yesterday that he plans to kill the man's family, the witness testified.

Darnell "Mookie" Jones, who is one of nine men on trial and is thought to have been a key lieutenant in a multimillion-dollar narcotics conspiracy, mumbled to Daniel "Baby Dan" Ross, "I'm going to kill your family," Ross testified.


Ross, a former member of the Anthony Jones drug gang that allegedly sold hundreds of pounds of cocaine and heroin in East Baltimore, had just testified that he once gave Darnell Jones, Anthony Jones' stepbrother, a semiautomatic handgun that was later used to kill an enemy of the organization.

Moments after that testimony, U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson called a routine recess, during which Jones threatened him, Ross said. After the break, Nickerson allowed Ross to tell the jury of the threat.


Darnell Jones' lawyer, Arcangelo M. Tuminelli, said no one else in the courtroom but Ross heard the threat, including several U.S. marshals and three lawyers seated between Jones and Ross.

"The description of where this was said, how it was said and how it was heard make the statement totally implausible," he said.

Darnell Jones, 21, is suspected of being an enforcer for Anthony Jones, who prosecutors say ruled his narcotics ring with an iron hand. Anthony Jones despised informants and arranged to have several suspected ones killed, prosecutors said.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jamie M. Bennett and Robert R. Harding have maintained that Darnell Jones is responsible for the 1994 slaying of a rival drug dealer, Keith Westmoreland, who was shot by two men wearing the masks of U.S. presidents.

He is also suspected of killing Octavian Henry, 20, who was shot repeatedly in an alley across from the Jones home, prosecutors said. Henry was thought to have been cooperating with the police, authorities said.

This year, prosecutors said, Darnell Jones was ordered by his stepbrother -- by then in a federal prison awaiting trial -- to carry out the contract killings of informants and their mothers.

Yesterday's alleged threat came on the second day of the expected two-month trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, during which several former members of the ring will testify against the nine defendants. Anthony Jones will be tried separately in January.

Prosecutors said the Jones ring is thought to be responsible for more than a dozen killings and millions of dollars worth of cocaine and heroin sales. Yesterday, Ross, the first of more than 100 witnesses expected to testify, gave the first glimpse of what the organization was like on the inside.


Ross is one of eight defendants who have pleaded guilty in the case. He received a federal sentence of 19 1/2 to 24 years for murder and racketeering but was spared a sentence of life without parole because of his willingness to testify against the organization, he said.

Ross told how he met Anthony Jones about eight years ago near an East Baltimore alley where "I saw [Anthony Jones] and an associate engaged in a shooting."

Ross, 25, testified that Jones and the "associate" shot a drug addict called "Snake," who had fallen out of favor with the organization.

Anthony Jones came to Ross' home a few days later and asked him whether police had questioned him about the shooting.

"I told him, no, no one had come by. And besides, I hadn't seen anything," Ross said.

After that show of trust, "we became cool. We became good associates," Ross recalled.


Anthony Jones eventually trusted Ross with part of his cocaine sales, and Ross set up a "shop" -- which he said means a house filled with drugs available for sale, much like a supermarket -- near Durham and Lanvale streets.

Defense lawyer William B. Purpura argued that Ross supplied Anthony Jones with 130 to 170 pounds of heroin in 18 months. Prosecutors disputed that.

"Anthony had a shop across the street where he was selling coke," Ross testified. "He had a lot of guys working for him. But after a while, he wanted to use my runners, selling dime bags of heroin. I didn't mind."

Ross said he got involved with the operation because he couldn't make ends meet. He said he worked two jobs, including one at Camden Yards, at one point.

Pub Date: 10/16/97