A federal judge will hand down prominent Baltimore defense attorney Kenneth Ravenell’s criminal sentence Wednesday morning, with Ravenell facing up to 20 years in prison after a jury convicted him in December of money laundering.
In a pre-hearing ruling issued Tuesday, Judge Liam O’Grady wrote that the government’s sentencing guidelines, when accounting for the nature of the crime, suggest Ravenell should face the maximum penalty. Federal prosecutors previously requested O’Grady sentence Ravenell to eight years in prison.
Ravenell, through his lawyers, is asking for probation.
As a judge, O’Grady has discretion when handing down a sentence.
Federal authorities originally charged Ravenell with racketeering, drug conspiracy and money laundering for allegedly helping a multistate marijuana operation run by drug kingpin and nightclub owner Richard Byrd. Byrd was convicted in 2017 and he testified against Ravenell, as did other members of his organization.
Ravenell had hired prominent attorney Josh Treem and investigator Sean Gordon for his legal defense, but the two men became a part of the case and also were charged federally. A jury found both men innocent.
In the request for eight years imprisonment, prosecutors said Ravenell, then working as a partner at the law firm Murphy, Falcon and Murphy, used the firm’s bank account to launder drug money.
“He abused his position as a member of the Bar of Maryland to break the law, treating his firm’s escrow account like a dirty bank for a coast-to-coast drug distribution organization for years and taking drug money for doing so,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.
Prosecutors say Ravenell helped launder $1.8 million in drug money for Byrd and others.
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Twice Ravenell asked O’Grady to order a new trial, and both times his request was denied, with O’Grady writing once that the “interest of justice does not require the granting of a new trial.”
As part of his own sentencing memo where he asked for probation, Ravenell included dozens of letters from members of the legal community, former clients, friends and his wife supporting him as he asks for leniency.
Kaye Ravenell describes her husband as a loving family man, a devout Christian and a dogged trial attorney in pursuit of the truth. Information about her husband was revealed at trial that was hard for her accept and placed a strain on their marriage, she wrote.
“I can wholeheartedly say that absolutely nothing that was said or revealed during the course of Ken’s trial will ever change my opinion of his innocence, dedication to the legal community or his desire to help others,” Kaye Ravenell said.
Growing up in extreme poverty in South Carolina, Ravenell, 62, was born to sharecroppers and had 11 siblings. He shared a room with his younger brother Paul, who Kenneth taught how to feed the hogs, cut wood, tend to crops and pray.
Ravenell attended South Carolina State University, a historically Black university, before graduating from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1984. As a criminal defense attorney, Ravenell has handled numerous prominent cases, including that of a West Baltimore gunman who shot and killed 7-year-old Taylor Hayes. He also sued Baltimore County Police on behalf of the young son of Korryn Gaines, the Randallstown woman killed by officers during a standoff.
“We have found him to be someone to hold up as a role model, particularly for Black lawyers and clients, and the prospect that he will no be able to continue his good work feels like a palpable loss to the Bar,” wrote a group of attorneys at the Maryland ACLU, including Legal Director Deborah Jeon.