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Baltimore attorney Ken Ravenell set to make first federal court appearance on charges he aided drug kingpin

Baltimore defense attorney Ken Ravenell is scheduled to make his first appearance in federal court since being charged with aiding a drug kingpin. Ravenell's attorney said his client will fight what he called an unjust prosecution.
Baltimore defense attorney Ken Ravenell is scheduled to make his first appearance in federal court since being charged with aiding a drug kingpin. Ravenell's attorney said his client will fight what he called an unjust prosecution.(Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Prominent Baltimore defense attorney Ken Ravenell is scheduled to make his first court appearance Tuesday to face allegations that he conspired with the millionaire boss of a cross-country marijuana ring to launder money and conceal drug deals.

Ravenell, 60, of Monkton, was indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering, money laundering and to distribute marijuana. The allegations center on the years of 2009 to 2014, during which he worked for the prestigious law firm of William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr. and defended Jamaican national kingpin Richard Byrd.

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Byrd pleaded guilty to the marijuana and cocaine ring in November 2016. He agreed to forfeit $20 million along with interests in a New York nightclub, properties in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and five Mercedes Benz cars.

Nearly three years later, federal prosecutors are accusing Ravenell of coaching Byrd and others in the drug crew on how to carry on undetected. Ravenell has not responded to messages.

He has hired for his defense Lucius Outlaw III, a Howard University School of Law professor and former assistant federal public defender. In reply to questions, Outlaw wrote in an email:

“Ken Ravenell has dedicated the past 30-plus years and counting to representing people in the toughest fights of their lives. He is held in high esteem by the criminal defense bar of Maryland, the state and federal judges of Maryland and many other jurisdictions, his clients, and the wider Baltimore community. He has the support of his family, especially his wife Kay and his five children. While he regrets that this fight has been unfairly brought to him, he will not run away from it, and he looks forward to proving his innocence and defeating the government’s five year and running effort to tarnish his name.”

Ravenell is one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Baltimore and he routinely handles high-profile murder cases in Baltimore Circuit Court. Last month, he defended the West Baltimore man who shot and killed 7-year-old Taylor Hayes. Federal agents raided his offices in 2014 and again last June.

In the indictment unsealed last week, prosecutors accuse him of coaching the drug dealers to use disposable cellphones, to obfuscate their travels by making arrangements for dozens of trips, to formulate fake identities and hide their bank accounts, and to influence witnesses to lie or be silent.

He’s scheduled to make his initial appearance Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. A federal judge from Alexandria, Virginia, is to preside over the hearing.

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