Man charged in more than 20 downtown car break-ins

A 57-year-old man was hit with 88 criminal charges this week in connection with more than 20 car break-ins that occurred over less than a month this spring in downtown Baltimore.

The charges against Alphonso Russell Jr. of Northwest Baltimore came just days after he received a six-month jail sentence for breaking into cars on April 4.


Prosecutors filed a new case, wrapping together a string of incidents dating to March 10 and continuing through April 3. The break-ins occurred all over the downtown area — on Charles, Calvert, Fayette, Franklin, Gay, Light, Lombard and Pratt streets, according to court documents.

Russell is accused of stealing CDs, an iPod, an iPad, DVD players, GPS devices and cash. Many of the victims may have been students — taken in the break-ins were multiple backpacks, which included textbooks, laptops, a calculator and other property, records show.

Police — and residents — often lament that repeat petty criminals cycle through the criminal justice system, returning to the streets to commit more crimes that often do not result in significant penalties. In Russell's case, prosecutors hope to show a pattern by bringing the charges together.

"We've been focusing on these frequent-fliers, people committing crime after crime after crime, and cracking down on them," said Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office. "The strategy here is to bring all of them in one case, and try them at once."

Megan Lewis, a defense attorney representing Russell, said in an e-mail, "We have some questions about the viability of the pending charges."

"There is a lot of information that will come out about these charges in the future," she said.

The charges include 25 counts of "rogue and vagabond," which is a charge associated with breaking into cars; 21 counts of malicious destruction of property over $1,000; 16 counts of theft under $1,000; 19 counts of theft under $100; four counts of malicious destruction of property under $1,000; and three counts of theft between $1,000 and $10,000.

Russell — who is being held at the Baltimore City Detention Center — has a history of arrests, court records show. He received the stiffest penalty in 2006, when he was convicted of theft over $500 and sentenced to six years and one month in prison, with five years and nine months of the sentence suspended. But when he was found to have violated his probation in 2009, the judge imposed four years of prison.