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Drug kingpin testifies he worked with Kanye, partied with Diddy and used Baltimore attorney’s help to hide an illicit fortune

When Richard Byrd wasn’t directing a cross-country marijuana distribution operation, he says he was partying with some of the biggest names in sports and hip hop.

Byrd testified in court that his nightclub concerts and branded events were headlined or attended by celebrities such as Chris Brown, Drake, Kevin Durant, Jamie Foxx, LeBron James, Jeezy, Nelly, Shaquille O’Neal, 2Chainz, and Dwyane Wade. Byrd testified that for years, he owned rights to hold events with rapper and mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, holding “more than 500″ such events with the artist.

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For a time, he said he also worked with Kanye West.

“Once he became a megastar, he [West] became very difficult to work with,” Byrd, 48, testified Friday in U.S. District Court.

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Byrd is the key witness in the trial of attorney Kenneth Ravenell, who is charged with aiding Byrd’s marijuana trafficking operation. Federal prosecutors say that Ravenell was intricately involved in Byrd’s criminal organization and laundering money, but the defense spent cross-examination trying to build up Byrd’s legitimate business efforts.

Defense attorneys spent much of Thursday evening and Friday morning showing dozens of flyers from the parties Byrd’s company hosted. The events, and his company’s involvement, also are described in news clippings and promos from the time.

Representatives for those celebrities either did not respond or could not be reached for comment.

Millions of dollars flowed through Byrd’s company, Loc Marketing, and when he pleaded guilty to drug trafficking in 2016, he forfeited $20 million to the federal government. While Loc was successful, Byrd testified that the company was a front for the drug operation, and that Ravenell was part of the brain trust that worked to help it avoid detection and keep the money coming in.

Attorneys for Ravenell sought to paint Byrd as a liar capable of just about anything. He is serving 26 years in prison, and prosecutors said they will ask for a sentence reduction as a result of his assistance in this case.

At one point, Ravenell’s defense attorney Peter H. White asked Byrd whether he ever discussed killing his own brother after suspecting he might have been cooperating with law enforcement.

Byrd first said he did not recall such a conversation but was shown a law enforcement memo describing such a discussion when he was interviewed by agents from the DEA and IRS. Byrd said the idea had been brought up, but he vetoed it. Byrd said he had forgotten.

“When you’re part of a company dealing with so many things, that’s just another day,” Byrd said.

“Potentially killing your own brother is just another day at the office for you?” White asked.

“When you’re in the streets, that’s just another day,” Byrd said.

They also showed Byrd a letter he wrote to Ravenell in 2015, in which he lamented that Ravenell, at that point under investigation after his law office was raided, could no longer represent him. He praised Ravenell, saying he had never done anything wrong and was of the utmost integrity.

Though the letter was addressed to Ravenell, he referred to Ravenell by his last name - “First of all, Ravenell did nothing illegal,” he wrote in one passage. Byrd said he did so because he expected the government to intercept the message, not because he actually believed Ravenell to be unaffiliated with his crimes.

But even in April 2018 — eight months after he began assisting the government — he appealed his conviction to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and said he “was always happy with Mr. Ravenell’s representation and wish to have him represent me now.”

While trying to build up Byrd’s business bona fides, the defense also sought to undermine his claim to being an investor in a major local project.

On Thursday, prosecutors played a recording of Byrd meeting with Ravenell’s former lawyer, Joshua Treem, and a private investigator, Sean Gordon, who are charged with obstruction of justice along with Ravenell. In the tape, Byrd repeatedly demands to be able to recoup money on an investment in the MGM National Harbor casino, which he said Ravenell helped facilitate through lead investors William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr. and Hassan Murphy, who were Ravenell’s law partner at the time.

Defense attorneys have said the investment is a lie, and on Friday displayed a list of investors in the casino. It includes the Murphys; Daniel Halpern, an Atlanta-based restaurateur; D.C. lawyer Sandy Roberts; Exelon CEO Calvin Butler; Kevin Maurice Johnson, the CEO of a development company; former Maryland Democratic party chair Michael Cryor; attorney Kenneth Frank and public affairs executive Damian O’Doherty, among others.

But not Byrd, or the powerful people — a real estate mogul and an Atlanta-based nightclub entrepreneur — who he said he made his investment through.

“Do you have anything to back up what you told this jury under oath?” White said.

“No, I don’t have it,” Byrd replied.

But he maintained investors didn’t want any documentation, because of Byrd’s criminal troubles.

Byrd testified that Ravenell kept a board displaying the players in the marijuana conspiracy, and that when Ravenell dispatched attorneys or investigators to pressure witnesses, they referred to it as “taking someone off the board.” White noted no such board was ever recovered, and Byrd offered that rather than a board it was typically jotted down on a pad of paper.

And Byrd previously testified that he paid Ravenell $2 million cash for his assistance, and that Byrd had made millions more. But asked who made the most money from the drug operation, he said Ravenell and another convicted member, Jerome Castle. That drew a laugh from White.

White asked Byrd if he was a good liar. Byrd responded by saying he was good at “playing to the script.”

“I did it for 20-something years, with the help of your client,” Byrd said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Taylor DeVille contributed to this article.

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