One of the leaders of a violent and well-connected East Baltimore heroin operation was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison Wednesday, a punishment Maryland's top federal prosecutor said would put an end to his "career of drug dealing and creating mayhem."
U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg sentenced Calvin "Turkey" Wright, 38, to 35 years in federal prison, about three months after he was convicted by a federal jury on drug conspiracy and weapons charges.
Prosecutors contended Wright and partner Johnny "JR" Butler dealt New York-bought heroin and cocaine in Baltimore since at least 2001, clearing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash each month through their "Red Dot" operation.
Wright's sentence was enhanced upon a finding by Legg that Wright was a leader of the conspiracy. Butler is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday.
Prosecutors said Butler and Wright were able to sneak drugs into prison, get a heads-up about warrants from courthouse staff and skirt the gun-application process. They were also charged with using a gun during a drug-trafficking crime for the killing of Fernando Rodriguez, who authorities say was their heroin and cocaine supplier. Rodriguez was found dead in late 2007 in a minivan in Baltimore County.
Prosecutors said that killing was strikingly similar to another killing for which Wright and Butler still face state charges – the torture and murder of Sintia Mesa in 2007. Police have described Mesa as an "innocent victim" who was dating a drug dealer with ties to Butler and Wright.
According to evidence introduced in the federal drug conspiracy case, DNA from Wright and Butler was recovered from duct tape used to bind Mesa and shows that Butler raped her.
Prosecutors say Butler carried out the killings and Wright was the "clean-up guy."
"In each case, the primary motive appeared to be Butler's desire to avenge transgressions committed by drug associates by killing people close to them," U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Their trial date in Mesa's slaying is tentatively scheduled for June in Baltimore Circuit Court.
The men were arrested as part of a series of raids in September 2008 that followed a lengthy joint investigation by state, local and federal authorities. About 20 people were charged in the conspiracy, which was largely documented through wiretaps — half at the federal level and half at the state.
Among the areas the group used to package, store and distribute drugs were the 5000 block of Belair Road, Greenmount Avenue and 29th Street, and Collington Avenue and Eager Street, authorities alleged.