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Crime

Baltimore man gets 40-year term for gang killings in case that highlights city’s ‘culture of violence’

Rashaud Nesmith was 16 when he was charged with armed carjacking. Still a teenager, he became involved with a violent Baltimore gang that law enforcement has connected to dozens of murders, shootings, armed robberies and carjackings.

Now 21, he was sentenced Monday to serve 40 years in federal prison — nearly double his lifetime.

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The sentence resulted from an agreement between prosecutors and the defense that a judge accepted following a sentencing hearing Monday. The parties also expressed agreement on a broader point: that this case represents the wide-reaching impacts of Baltimore’s intractable culture of violence that too often attracts young men from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Nesmith was arrested in September 2019 and charged with shooting an off-duty Baltimore Police officer during a robbery. Law enforcement later connected Nesmith to a string of other violent crimes, some involving the so-called Triple C gang; he faced a litany of charges from two federal conspiracy indictments that were resolved Monday.

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“It’s a shame. To sentence somebody to decades more than they’ve been alive,” U.S. Attorney in Maryland Erek Barron said at a news conference after the hearing. “Mr. Nesmith and defendants like him had other options.”

But much of the hearing focused on the myriad factors that likely propelled Nesmith down a path of horrific violence and destruction.

He pleaded guilty in June, along with a co-defendant. Nesmith admitted to participating in at least one carjacking, two armed robberies and an attempted armed robbery that collectively left two victims dead and one seriously injured in gunfire, according to his plea agreement.

Before issuing her ruling Monday, Judge Stephanie Gallagher acknowledged some of the struggles Nesmith had faced during childhood, including negative influences in the streets, anger management issues, a lack of paternal guidance, and a mother and grandmother who worked long hours to support the family. Several of his relatives were present in the courtroom during the hearing.

When the judge asked whether anyone wanted to speak on behalf of the victims, no one came forward.

Nesmith, who appeared in a maroon jumpsuit with a light blue surgical mask drooping beneath his nose, also declined to comment during the hearing. He sat quietly beside his attorney, occasionally whispering questions or shaking his head slightly as the lawyers testified.

Prosecutor Patty McLane emphasized the seriousness of the crimes, not least because the perpetrators targeted “truly innocent victims.”

After the daylight shooting of Sgt. Isaac Carrington outside his Northeast Baltimore home in August 2019, detectives searched Nesmith’s house and found a photo of the officer’s gun on his cellphone, according to charging documents. Police also found a .40 caliber handgun that matched ballistics evidence from the scene of the robbery.

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The men approached Carrington wearing masks, according to police. The officer was hospitalized in critical condition and a search carried on for almost six weeks before police announced charges. He remains paralyzed and uses a wheelchair.

Nesmith, then 18, was charged in that case alongside Karon Foster, who was accused of leading a group that committed several other gun crimes, including murders, around the same time. Both men were named in a federal conspiracy indictment focused on that group. Nesmith was named in another federal indictment months later that identified him as a member of Baltimore’s Triple C gang, which itself has been tied to scores of shootings and homicides.

During the news conference outside the federal courthouse Monday afternoon, law enforcement officials touted the close partnership that helped them solve the cases, which involved Baltimore Police, ATF agents and the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office. They said firearms testing and ballistics evidence were key.

“Through partnerships like this, we can make arrests and move violent offenders off the streets of Baltimore,” said Baltimore Police Deputy Commissioner Richard Worley. “We must break the culture of violence in the city.”

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Officials also spoke about the importance of giving young people viable alternatives through mentorship, job training and other programs.

Nesmith’s attorney, Christopher Nieto, described a gaping chasm between young people growing up in different Baltimore neighborhoods. He said Nesmith almost certainly would have been killed in gang violence if he hadn’t gotten arrested first.

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“I don’t have the solution, but it breaks my heart,” he said during the hearing. “I believe Rashaud has so much he can give.”

Nieto said he’s cautiously optimistic about what his client could accomplish several decades down the road. He said Nesmith has goals and aspirations for his time in prison.

“As an older person looking back on the sins of … a child and trying to start anew, that is a Sisyphean effort. I am hopeful he will buck that trend,” Nieto said. “He will spend the rest of his life atoning.”

The 40-year sentence represented a deviation from federal sentencing guidelines, which recommended life in prison, the judge noted before announcing her ruling. She said the deterrent effect of a long sentence can become incredibly important in cases like this.

“Forty years is a long time. You are a very young man, Mr. Nesmith. You had a tough background, but that doesn’t excuse this behavior,” she told the defendant. “I wish you the best of luck, and I very much hope this is the last time you are present in a courtroom.”


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