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Baltimore lawyer named in case against defense attorney Kenneth Ravenell

Baltimore attorney Kenneth Ravenell, already awaiting trial on federal racketeering charges, was hit with new grand jury charges Thursday. Prosecutors also named another prominent attorney, Joshua Treem, and a private investigator in allegations they conspired to hide evidence of crimes.
Baltimore attorney Kenneth Ravenell, already awaiting trial on federal racketeering charges, was hit with new grand jury charges Thursday. Prosecutors also named another prominent attorney, Joshua Treem, and a private investigator in allegations they conspired to hide evidence of crimes. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

A federal grand jury has charged prominent attorney Joshua Treem and a private investigator in the racketeering case against defense attorney Kenneth Ravenell, alleging that they helped conceal Ravenell’s conduct by obtaining false statements to protect him.

Ravenell, 61, has been under indictment since last fall, when he was charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, money laundering and drug distribution for allegedly covering up and aiding the crimes of a Jamaican marijuana kingpin, Richard Byrd.

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The new charges accuse Treem, 73, and investigator Sean Gordon, 45, of helping Ravenell by getting those accused of conspiring with him to give false statements. Two meetings in 2017 between the pair and Byrd, who was in jail, appear to have been recorded, based on the extensive dialogue cited in the indictment. The quoted exchange shows Byrd describing in great detail how Ravenell allegedly was involved in his crimes.

But after the second meeting, Byrd signed an affidavit attesting to the opposite, the indictment alleges.

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“This is between you, me, and — you know, and that’s where it’s going to stay,” Treem told Byrd, according to the indictment.

“You will leave here with the information that you came seeking,” Byrd said.

Treem and Gordon were charged with creating false records and documents to obstruct a federal investigation. Treem’s attorney, Robert P. Trout, said he was “surprised, shocked actually” by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s decision to bring charges.

“We expect the evidence in this case will show that his actions in his representation of his client were proper, ethical, and fully in keeping with his professional obligations to his client,” Trout said in a statement. “Josh looks forward to clearing his good name.”

Gordon, the private investigator, said he was not aware of the charges and declined to comment. None of the men were arrested, and it was not known when they would make their first appearances in court.

New details in the indictment allege that Byrd’s money flowed through the law firm of William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr., where Ravenell was a partner at the time. It also includes an extensive conversation Byrd had with Treem about recouping an investment he said he made in an MGM Casino with an unnamed lawyer from the firm.

No one from Murphy’s firm has been charged in connection with the case, though five were listed previously as potential government witnesses. Murphy has declined to talk about the case.

The complex case has been simmering for years, starting with a raid of Ravenell’s office by the IRS and DEA in 2014. A second sweep occurred in June 2019, with agents seizing thousands of emails and documents from the attorneys — a sensitive and unusual move requiring high-level Justice Department approval, since communications between lawyers and clients are typically safeguarded from government inspection.

Maryland’s federal judges have recused themselves from the case — a sign of the reach and prominence of the attorneys involved. A senior judge assigned to the Eastern District of Virginia is overseeing the case.

Ravenell and Treem are two of Baltimore’s best-known criminal defense attorneys. Ravenell has been an attorney for three decades, once successfully arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, and he recently won a $38 million judgment for the family of Korryn Gaines. Ravenell has been free on pretrial release, continuing to handle cases in the state court.

He participated Thursday in a news conference with the ACLU announcing a federal lawsuit over the 2018 police custody death of Anton Black on the Eastern Shore.

Ravenell’s attorney, Lucius Outlaw, said Ravenell “looks forward to showing in court how the government’s allegations against him fall far short of the truth.”

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“He has always been and remains a respected and ethical attorney who has spent his career fighting injustice,” Outlaw said.

Treem is a former federal prosecutor and partner at the firm of Brown, Goldstein & Levy who also has handled an array of high-profile cases and has been a mentor to many area defense attorneys. He was most recently listed as part of the legal team that helped secure a record settlement related to the Gun Trace Task Force police corruption scandal.

Andrew Levy, in a statement sent on behalf of his firm, said Treem remains a partner: “We’ve worked closely with Josh Treem for many years and know him to be both an exceptional lawyer and a man of the highest integrity, honesty and professionalism.”

Gordon said in his online biography that he worked on the Adnan Syed case, popularized by the “Serial” podcast, among other cases.

Federal prosecutors had indicated in March that more charges were likely coming while postponing Ravenell’s trial scheduled for earlier this year.

Byrd, the drug kingpin, was charged in 2014 and sentenced to 26 years in prison in 2017. Federal officials have said he led one of Baltimore’s biggest drug crews in recent history — and allege he did so with advice from Ravenell.

Prosecutors previously alleged that Byrd and his crew paid Ravenell for advice on how they could avoid detection, such as how to switch phones and use fake identities to conceal assets. They also alleged that there was an orchestrated scheme to influence co-conspirators not to testify.

“Ravenell obtained access to incarcerated co-conspirators whom he did not represent, so that Ravenell, [Gordon], and others could attempt to improperly influence their testimony, attempt to cause them to execute false affidavits and witness statements which Ravenell and [Gordon] knew to be false, and attempt to cause witnesses to withhold testimony,” according to the indictment.

They wrote that Ravenell instructed crew members to use pay phones and meet in person to avoid wiretaps. He allegedly told them to use disposable cellphones, and to concoct fake identities to hide their bank accounts.

“Ravenell and other members of the conspiracy used the law firm’s bank accounts to launder money and funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to and from various businesses and individuals,” prosecutors wrote.

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The new indictment says the Murphy firm’s records show it received $1.9 million from Byrd, keeping only $630,000 of it for legal fees and passing the rest through to Byrd or other entities and individuals for Byrd’s “benefit.”

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It also includes extensive dialogue from two meetings between Treem, Gordon and Byrd in an Arizona jail in 2017. Treem said he did not want anyone to know he had visited Byrd, and both men told Byrd they were there because Ravenell was under investigation.

Treem presented a list of 53 statements that prosecutors allege he knew to be false and that Ravenell had prepared. They said Byrd signed a false affidavit attesting to the statements, even after telling Treem about his entanglements with Ravenell.

“The real situation is this: [Ravenell] knew my whole business operation, period, from A to Z,” Byrd told Treem, according to the indictment. “[Ravenell] knew that [one of Byrd’s organizations] was used to launder money. [Ravenell] knew I was still involved in narcotics. I paid [Ravenell] millions of dollars in cash. [Ravenell] shared all that money between [the Murphy firm attorneys], now [those attorneys] are riding off in the sunset and he got a headache and nobody is making sure I get my money.”

Byrd asked Treem to get rid of a computer that contained details about Byrd’s finances, and Treem said he could not. He also indicated he was troubled with what Byrd had told him about Ravenell and needed to think about it. His main concern, however, was that Byrd not cooperate with the government.

“I take you at your word that at no point you will become [the government’s] bitch,” Treem said, according to the indictment.

The indictment discusses an investment in an MGM Casino involving Byrd and two attorneys from the Murphy firm, who are not named. Byrd said he wanted to recover his investment, but Treem said it was unlikely, according to the recorded conversation.

“So [the attorney] has just f— —ed me?” Byrd said to Treem.

“You’re just another f— —ee. A f— —ee in a long line of f— —ees,” Treem said. “You know, [the attorney] doesn’t care.”

Treem repeatedly told Byrd that his notes of the conversation were attorney work product and would not be seen by anybody. After the raid on his law firm in 2019, lawyers for Treem appealed the seizure of documents to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which quickly ordered federal prosecutors to halt their review and turn the material over to a magistrate judge to filter out all except those which pertained to Ravenell.

Treem also is accused of drafting an unsolicited and false letter to U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett in 2018. Prosecutors say Treem recounted his meeting at the jail with Byrd but falsely stated that Byrd cleared Ravenell of wrongdoing, and that the meeting was ended when Byrd brought up the casino investment money.

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