A ranking member of the Black Guerilla Family street gang testified in federal court Thursday to enlisting neighborhood boys as young as 13 to work his heroin shops in West and South Baltimore.
Among his young recruits, Davon Jamall Robinson said, were brothers Montana Barronette and Terrell Sivells. Now a decade later, the brothers from Sandtown-Winchester are at the center of a case against an alleged crew of drug dealers and hitmen known as “Trained To Go.”
The brothers and six other men are on trial for charges of racketeering and drug trafficking. Federal prosecutors say they murdered, kidnapped, intimidated witnesses and sold drugs — heroin, marijuana, cocaine — in West Baltimore for years.
All eight men face life in prison. Their defense attorneys have declined to comment.
Their trial began last month in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Thursday brought the testimony of Robinson, an admitted “minister of justice” in the Black Guerilla Family who turned government witness in hope of leniency for his own crimes.
Robinson had faced 20 years in prison for racketeering, but he got six after agreeing to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Defense attorneys peppered him with questions about the deal to undermine his credibility before the jury.
He told the court of buying wholesale supplies of heroin — and occasionally marijuana — outside downtown hotels and in Fells Point. He recruited men to watch the street corners, direct traffic and run orders for gel caps filled with the powdered heroin. He said they stashed guns in vacant houses and cars to defend their stash, even under a pigeon coop.
They sold 700 to 800 of the $10 heroin caps daily, he said.
Barronette and Sivells took over one of his shops in Sandtown-Winchester, Robinson said, though he asked them to quit selling heroin under his brand name of “Get Right.”
“It wasn’t the same quality,” he said.
Prosecutors have accused the brothers of running “Trained To Go,” a crew they said sold drugs and served as guns for hire by Baltimore’s other street gangs. One defendant, John "Binkie" Harrison, is accused of participating in a shooting that left three people dead.
Sivells is accused of murdering a 34-year-old man who was due in court on drug charges. The victim, Jamie Hilton-Bey, was abducted by masked gunmen, dragged into a van and killed in May 2010, according to police.
Barronette — whom police have described as a deadly gang enforcer — is accused of at least six killings between July 2015 and May 2016. Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis once called him the city’s “No. 1 trigger-puller.”
Their five-week trial has proceeded under increased security. A police informant, Guy Coffey, who was due to testify, was gunned down three months before the trial.
U.S. Marshals have started searching the shoes of spectators entering the courtroom. In a break from procedure, Harrison remains handcuffed during the proceedings. His attorney declined to comment.
Marshals spokesman David Lutz declined to say what caused officials to tighten security.
On Thursday, there were murmurs, even gasps, from the gallery as Robinson testified. In Baltimore, a city long ruled by a code of no snitching, he said he feared for his family’s safety.
In one tense exchange, Barronette’s defense attorney pressed him on recruiting boys into the drug trade.
“I don’t ask their age,” Robinson said.
“You don’t care, right?” attorney Michael Lawlor said.
“What does that have to do with anything?” Robinson shot back.