xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Attorney general's office makes rare move into street crime

The Maryland attorney general's office has indicted 15 Baltimore men on drug conspiracy charges, signaling a novel push into prosecuting street crime by a state agency that has focused historically on white-collar and environmental cases.

Officials said the indictments capped a months-long investigation by the Baltimore Police Department and the attorney general's recently formed organized crime unit into drug dealing around the 2400 block of Greenmount Ave. in East Baltimore. Maryland State Police also provided assistance.

Advertisement

That area had been the target of a massive 2013 indictment brought by the Baltimore state's attorney's office against alleged members and associates of the Black Guerrilla Family. At least two of the defendants in this week's indictment were charged in that previous case.

"Criminal organizations profiting from drug addiction are contributing to intolerable levels of violence in Baltimore," Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said in a statement Monday.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Local prosecutors, and to a lesser extent federal prosecutors, usually handle such criminal cases. Before 2007, the attorney general's criminal investigations unit handled charges related to misconduct in office, bribery, perjury, falsification of public records and criminal violations of Maryland tax law.

Then-Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler expanded the scope of his office's criminal division to take on gang prosecutions in conjunction with authorities across the state, though in a limited number of cases.

"We did help jurisdictions, but they would call us in and ask us to do that," Gansler said Monday. "We were very concerned with going in and bigfooting any local jurisdictions."

With the creation of the organized crime unit in recent months, the attorney general's office is further expanding efforts to investigate and bring charges in street crime cases. It combines the existing gang and firearms units, and consists of five prosecutors, with plans to expand.

Advertisement

"Our attorneys have made a concerted effort to reach out and have dialogue with state's attorney's offices across the state, police departments across the state, and say, 'We're an extra set of resources that you can call on when you need us, and we'd like to help you take on these kinds of cases and bring these folks to justice,'" said David Nitkin, a spokesman for the office.

Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger, president of the Maryland State's Attorneys' Association, which had some concerns about Gansler's office encroaching on their role, said officials now welcome the collaboration.

"These crimes can cross jurisdictional lines, and it certainly makes sense to have a statewide effort if there ever needs to be any crossover," Shellenberger said. "We view it as a very unifying development."

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby's office said it has been in "regular contact" with the attorney general's office but declined to comment, citing a pending case.

Frosh's staff includes several former top city prosecutors. Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah previously led the major investigations unit for the city state's attorney's office under former State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein. The chief of the organized crime unit is Katie Dorian, who worked in the major investigations unit with Vignarajah, and other former city prosecutors left for the attorney general's office as well.

Bernstein's office announced a sweeping Black Guerrilla Family indictment in 2013 with great fanfare, charging 48 defendants. But as the cases came to court this year, many were dropped or resulted in plea bargains that brought little prison time.

Two defendants from the case are now charged in the new indictment by the attorney general's office. Keith Anderson, 36, whose charges of murder conspiracy and gang activity in the 2013 case are one of the few cases still pending, and Anthony Hunter, 30, who pleaded guilty to a gang charge in June and received a seven-year suspended sentence, are among seven people who have been taken into custody. Both are charged with cocaine distribution in the latest case.

According to the indictment, Anderson and Hunter were caught selling drugs to undercover officers in September.

During the attorney general's investigation, another man charged in the case, Sean Purcell, allegedly discovered detectives conducting undercover surveillance from a covert location and shouted at the detectives to go home.

"You ain't locking up anybody on Greenmount today!" he allegedly yelled, before throwing bricks and chunks of concrete through the window where the detectives were located.

"When confronted about his actions, Purcell stated that the officers were disrupting their operations and that the police were 'the enemy,'" prosecutors wrote in the indictment.

Purcell is charged with assaulting two police officers in connection with the incident, along with three drug-related counts connected to the sale of drugs to an undercover officer earlier in the investigation.

Aidan Smith, Anderson's attorney in the Black Guerrilla Family case, declined to comment. Hunter's attorney in the case did not respond to a request for comment, and Purcell did not have an attorney listed in court records.

Gansler said there are a "scarcity of resources" in the state, and the attorney general's office could be called on more often to help if it is successful. That, in turn, could stretch the state agency's resources.

Still, he said, "It's a very positive development when local enforcement works cooperatively with state law enforcement."

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement