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FRIDAY, AUGUST 12, 2011 |
| THE BALTIMORE SUN
Hall found guilty of killing federal informant
Judge says he expects to give life sentence
By Tricia Bishop
The Baltimore Sun
Md.’s Van Hollen named to deficit reduction panel
Democrat says the talks should focus on job growth
By Baltimore Sun staff
After five hours of deliberation, a federal jury convicted Antonio “Mack” Hall on Thursday in the retaliation murder of an FBI informant, who told investigators that Hall liked to “bang the gun” and was connected to several drug-related killings in the city. Jurors also found Hall guilty of weapons violations and participating in a seven-year conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine in the tiny southern Baltimore community of Westport, where both he and his victim lived. Hall, 30, shot Kareem Kelly Guest a half-dozen times in September 2009 as Guest pleaded for mercy. Guest would have turned 31 Thursday. His mother slumped on a court bench after the verdict was read and sobbed, her head in her hands. Others called out, “Happy birthday, Kareem.” Hall, who said he had no family in the court, was immediately taken from the room after the proceeding. “He’s finished in the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland,” said U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett, who had arranged for Hall to be taken to a federal prison in another state, without revealing where even to his defense attorneys. “You’ll find out,” he told them. The judge added that he would “almost certainly” give Hall a life term in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for Nov. 16. Defense attorneys Gary Proctor and Timothy Sullivan, who were appointed by the court, claimed Guest had many enemies and that Hall wasn’t his killer, though the jury rejected the argument. The conviction was a hard-fought win for the government. No one wanted to testify against Hall, who has a history of punishing so-called “snitches,” prosecutors said, and many of those interviewed initially lied about his involvement. Federal investigators took more than a year to build the case, chipping away at it even when no one would talk, until they got a tip in February of last year that led to a break in the investigation. They relocated witnesses for their safety and used threats of criminal prosecution to pressure those who appeared to be protecting Hall. They charged one witness with perjury, told another he could be indicted for conspiracy and opened a criminal investigation into the actions of a lawyer who improperly leaked documents that revealed Guest was working with the FBI. “We will devote every available resource to pursue criminals who retaliate against witnesses,” Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in an email. He also had a message to those who might act as Hall did: “Whatever troubles you had before you attacked a witness, we will make things much worse for you.” The indictment against Hall charged him with conspiracy, using a gun in a crime of violence, being a felon in illegal possession of ammunition and using firearms in connection with drug trafficking, though that last charge was dropped by prosecutors this week. The crux of the case was the killing of the informant, however. If Hall had been just a small-time drug dealer, federal investigators likely wouldn’t have bothered pursuing him, prosecutors said. “He’s here because he’s a crack dealer who kills people,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John F. Purcell told jurors during opening statements last week. Hall is believed to have killed a 19-year-old rival drug dealer as the young man played video games and to have shot a junkie who had helped police arrest one of Hall’s friends in another killing, according to trial testimony. Those crimes were included in the indictment as examples of behavior in the crack conspiracy but not charged separately. Guest was arrested for heroin distribution in late 2008. He decided to cooperate with investigators in the hope it would help his own case, and eventually identified more than a dozen people in the city as killers and drug dealers, including Hall. The information was used to build a federal drug case against eight defendants in Baltimore, most of whom pleaded guilty before going to trial. Two men pressed on, however, including Larry Cheese, who told his lawyer, Michael Carithers, that he wanted to go before a jury. To prepare, Carithers went over the evidence with Cheese, and he ultimately gave copies of an FBI report detailing Guest’s disclosures, along with similar reports for other informants, to his client and his client’s mother. The documents — known as “302s” — were photocopied and pasted all over Westport, an area known for its high concentration of crime. Carithers, a former federal prosecutor in Detroit, initially denied giving out the 302s, though he changed his story later on, blaming a poor memory for his early statements, and admitted to distributing the documents. The 302s set the wheels in motion for Guest’s murder, attorneys on both sides said during Hall’s trial. “This case tragically demonstrates what can happen when information about witnesses in criminal cases is not protected,” Rosenstein said in a separate statement released by his office. email@example.com
Tapped Thursday for the bipartisan congressional committee that is charged with finding ways to cut the federal deficit by as much as $1.5 trillion, Rep. Chris Van Hollen said the panel should focus on jobs. “Putting America back to work is the best and most immediate way to reduce our deficit,” the Montgomery County Democrat said in a statement. “Our plan should put jobs first, sharpen America’s competitive edge, ensure health and retirement security, and require shared responsibility from those who have done so well even during these tough economic times.” Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, was named by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to serve on the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which was created last week as part of the deal to
raise the federal debt ceiling. By Nov. 23, the socalled supercommittee is supposed to identify ways to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion. That’s on top of about $900 billion in cuts the legislation orders over
the next 10 years. If panel members cannot agree on the additional reductions, or if Congress does not accept their recommendations, the law imposes automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion. Pelosi said the panel “has a golden opportunity to take its discussions to the higher ground of America’s greatness and its values.” “We must achieve a ‘grand bargain’ that reduces the deficit by addressing our entire budget, while strengthening Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security,” she said. The parties remain sharply divided over how to close the deficit. Democrats speak of a “balanced approach” — cutting
spending while increasing revenues by closing what they characterize as tax loopholes and by allowing tax cuts initially signed by President George W. Bush to expire. Republicans focus on spending cuts; most have rejected tax increases. Republican House Speaker John Boehner said this week that the parties have “fundamental differences about government and its proper role in our society.” He said the supercommittee “presents an opportunity for both parties to bring to the table their best ideas, debate them on the merits, and ultimately come together to do what’s best for our country.” The panel is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans each from the House and the Senate, selected by each party’s leader in each chamber. Van Hollen, who represents parts of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in the Washington suburbs, could use his position to give voice to the tens of thousands of federal workers whose jobs have been threatened during the deficit debate by talk of spending cuts.
Accidental shooting aftermath
JOE SORIERO/BALTIMORE SUN PHOTO
Paramedics transport a woman Thursday to a state police medevac helicopter in a field near Jefferson and Brashears streets in Annapolis. The woman was injured in an accidental shooting and was in transported to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, police said.
Pugh outlines public safety plan
Mayoral candidate urges police audit, youth options
By Julie Scharper
The Baltimore Sun
Mayoral candidate state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh said Thursday that she would audit police statistics, implement a program to seize guns from young people and create a watch list of children most likely to become involved in violence. “If we’re going to solve crime in our community, we need to focus on young people,” Pugh said at a morning news conference at her East Baltimore campaign headquarters. Pugh said she would create a program that would allow police to confiscate guns from juveniles without levying criminal charges. Under “Operation Disarm Our Youth,” parents, teachers and social workers worried that a young person may have a gun could arrange for police to search the youth’s home — with parents’ permission — and seize weapons. Campaign staffers for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is running to keep her post against a crowded Democratic field in
the Sept. 13 primary, issued a news release saying that Pugh preBaltimore sented a “stolen public safety plan” callVotes ing for tougher gun 32 DAYS UNTIL laws as the mayor THE MAYORAL had done. RawlingsPRIMARY Blake campaign spokeswoman Keiana Page said the news release referred to a point on Pugh’s website that urges stricter gun laws. Pugh’s campaign fired back, saying that the mayor’s release represented “a desperate attempt ... to distract citizens from the fact that she has been absent from the conversation with the community and doesn’t really have a comprehensive plan for reducing the growing violence in our city.” The seven-page crime prevention plan that Pugh unveiled Thursday does not mention tougher gun laws. While Pugh’s campaign said she supports the idea, that’s not a centerpiece of her proposal. Pugh also would target 300 children most likely to perpetrate or be victims of gun crimes and provide mentoring and monitoring to prevent them from being
involved in violence. She would establish a “youth crime” section in each police district that would focus on kids teetering on falling into crime and expand the police cadet program in high schools. Pugh said she would seek help from philanthropists, businesses and nonprofits to expand job programs for young people and recreation centers to provide constructive opportunities for youth. Pugh questioned the accuracy of police statistics and said she would immediately call for an audit of the department if she were elected mayor. She rejected Rawlings-Blake’s plan to hire 300 police officers to fill vacant positions and said she would raise standards to join the force. Pugh also said she would reinstate a tuition reimbursement program for officers that Rawlings-Blake eliminated as part of last year’s budget cuts. Pugh repeatedly vowed that her plan would not cost the city more money. She has said she could eliminate $12 million from the police budget through greater efficiency. And many of her youth programs would rely on private funding, she said. firstname.lastname@example.org twitter.com/juliemore
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