A federal jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon whether prominent Baltimore defense attorney Ken Ravenell conspired to launder drug money through the law firm he worked for and help a wealthy drug boss evade law enforcement.
The federal conspiracy case against Ravenell and co-defendants Joshua Treem and Sean Gordon went to the jury after two days of closing arguments. Jurors did not reach a verdict Thursday, and will resume deliberations Monday.
Ravenell is charged with a racketeering conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice. Federal prosecutors accuse him of helping his longtime client Richard Byrd launder drug money through the law firm of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy. Ravenell worked as a senior partner at the downtown firm.
Byrd is serving 26 years in federal prison on drug conspiracy charges. He claimed to deliver bags of cash to Ravenell, who allegedly washed the drug money clean by moving it through the law firm’s bank accounts.
At issue is whether Ravenell knew the money came from drugs. Byrd also ran a lucrative events and marketing business, throwing lavish parties with celebrity appearances. Ravenell’s attorneys argued that he believed the money came from this business and was legitimate.
Prosecutors allege Ravenell also advised Byrd and his drug crew how to avoid detection as they shipped marijuana across the country. Ravenell faces federal drug conspiracy charges, too.
When authorities opened a grand jury investigation into Ravenell’s conduct, he hired the distinguished Baltimore defense attorney Treem to represent him. Treem and his investigator, Sean Gordon, were later indicted as co-defendants in the case and accused of deliberately misleading a federal judge about the relationship between Ravenell and Byrd.
Treem and Gordon are charged with conspiracy, falsifying records and obstruction of justice. The law forbids attorneys from lying to the court.
During the three week trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, defense attorneys for Ravenell, Treem and Gordon accused federal prosecutors of overreaching, arguing the three men acted as zealous advocates for their clients — not as criminal accomplices.
The government’s case rests on the words of Byrd himself; he testified during three days of trial. Defense attorneys hammered on inconsistencies in his statements and warned jurors that he couldn’t be trust.
The case presents jurors with questions of how far a defense attorney may go to defend his or her client. The proceedings have been closely watched by lawyers and law professors in Baltimore.