Gang leader caught in bureaucratic mix-up

The Baltimore Sun

The reputed California Bloods leader was supposed to be sentenced for a murder conviction in Baltimore yesterday.

But last week, Shaidon "Don Papa" Blake was yanked out of the city's detention center by U.S. marshals who were under orders to bring him to a federal court in Las Vegas, where he faces a gun charge.

The move surprised prosecutors, Blake's court-appointed lawyer, Blake's family and even the medical officer who was supposed to perform a psychiatric evaluation on the defendant. It also caused a cross-country kerfuffle between local and federal prosecutors.

State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who has made prosecuting gang members a top priority, found the incident "unacceptable."

"They came in and snatched him up," said Margaret T. Burns, her spokeswoman. "They probably thought the case was done."

Blake was convicted of second-degree murder and conspiracy in the grisly 2006 slaying of a 19-year-old Baltimore man named Terrance Randolph.

The victim was bound, bludgeoned and stabbed in the neck with a samurai sword in the basement of a West Baltimore rowhouse. Then his body was burned.

Gang ties

When city homicide detectives caught up with Blake, he told them that he was part of a gang called the Bounty Hunter Bloods and was in the city to impose discipline on the unruly city youths, according to court testimony.

In a letter to The Sun, Blake denied being involved with the murder but admitted being a gang leader.

A Circuit Court jury convicted Blake in April, and he faces life plus 30 years.

So, when Jessamy learned that Blake had been swooped up by the federal agents, she told her senior staff in a meeting that that she'd "bring justice to Blake," Burns said.

She threatened to fly a judge, defense attorney and a prosecutor out to Nevada for a sentencing hearing if the federal agents wouldn't release him to Maryland, Burns said.

Such drastic measures may not be necessary.

The Nevada prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the federal charges without prejudice Thursday. Nevada authorities could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Assistant State's Attorney Brian Fish, who prosecuted the case, dismissed the jurisdictional battle as a "bureaucratic snafu" and said yesterday that Blake was being rerouted back to Baltimore. The Bloods leader could appear in court for his sentencing as early as today, Fish said.

The apparent mix-up began eight days ago when the U.S. marshals office transferred him from one of the state-run jails.

Three days later Gregory Fey, the assistant chief medical officer for the Circuit Court, wrote a letter to the judge in charge of the Baltimore case, noting that he twice attempted to perform a presentence psychiatric evaluation on Blake but was told that the prisoner was gone.

Dennis Laye, Blake's court-appointed lawyer, learned that his client was in federal hands last week from a woman who identifies herself as Blake's fiancee.

"She said that he has a federal ID number," Laye said. "The next thing that I heard from his family was that he was gone. This sort of stuff doesn't happen very often."

Circuitous route

Federal prisoners typically don't get nonstop flights. They are moved from prison to prison, as space and transportation become available.

Computerized court records show that Blake was supposed to appear in a Nevada federal court on May 25, but that was put off until June 7. "The U.S. Marshal has advised the court that [Blake] is in transport" toward Nevada, records from a May 23 hearing show.

But the next day the federal prosecutor filed a motion to dismiss the indictment.

Meanwhile, Blake, 35, was traveling across the country. His fiancee, Lisa Smith, said Blake recently called her from Oklahoma City.

Nobody there would confirm his whereabouts. John W. Lloyd, the U.S. marshal for East Oklahoma would only say: "He's in transit," citing prisoner confidentiality rules.

Circuit Court Judge John N. Prevas was one of the few city officials unperturbed by the missing defendant. "There is a right to speedy trial, not to speedy sentencing," he said.

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