Originally published on July 2, 2015, at NationofChange.org
Caught participating in a racketeering conspiracy involving drug smuggling, assault, and money laundering, 24 correctional officers have been convicted for colluding with the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) gang in the Baltimore City Detention Center and several connected facilities. Altogether 40 correctional officers and BGF gang members or associates have been convicted for their participation in the wide-ranging conspiracy. On Wednesday, former correctional officer Ashley Newton was sentenced to 51 months in prison for smuggling contraband, money laundering, and allowing BGF gang members to assault other inmates.
Beginning as early as 2008, Newton began smuggling drugs and other contraband into prison for a succession of BGF leaders and had long-term sexual relationships with at least two BGF inmates, including Duron “Pinky” Young. On a daily basis, Newton smuggled prescription pills, marijuana, and tobacco for Young in exchange for payments, gifts, or a share of the profits. Newton also opened inmates’ cell doors to allow BGF members to assault other prisoners.
On May 19, 2011, Newton unlocked a door allowing a large number of BGF inmates to attack and repeatedly stab a prisoner. After Young targeted another inmate for selling contraband without his permission in 2012, Newton opened the door of the inmate’s section to permit Young and another BGF member to assault the inmate. Newton warned the BGF of upcoming prison searches by correctional officers and arranged for money to be sent to BGF inmates. She also facilitated phone calls between inmates, including calls from other prisons to BGF leader Tavon White.
“We’re about to go into a strange place, an upside-down world where inmates ran the prison and correctional officers took directions from the gang leader,” Prosecutor Robert Harding told jurors in his opening statements.
Investigators discovered that White had impregnated four correctional officers while waiting in jail on an attempted murder charge. Enamored with the BGF gang leader, one of the female guards who had a child with White had his name tattooed to her wrist. Another female correctional officer who had two of his children tattooed his name onto her neck. According to one search warrant, the names of 14 guards willing to prostitute themselves for $150 per inmate were written on a jail wall, including two of the guards that White impregnated.
When entering the prison, the correctional officers hid drugs and other contraband beneath their clothing and inside their own body cavities. The guards also smuggled items in their shoes or inside sandwiches that they brought into the prison. BGF leaders used contraband cellphones to order drugs and other contraband while coordinating gang activities.
“This case exposed rampant crime and corruption inside jailhouse walls, which spawns more crime in the streets,” stated U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. “Continued vigilance will be needed to make sure that jails help prevent crime instead of facilitating it.”
Twenty-four correctional officers have been convicted for their participation in the jail racketeering conspiracy. The convicted guards include Newton, Kevin Armstrong, Tanierdra Finch, Danielle Forrest, Aisha Fraction, Sean Graves, Angela Johnson, Derrick Jones, Javonne Lunkin, Travis Paylor, Milshenna Peoples, Antonia Allison, Ebonee Braswell, Chania Brooks, Tiffany Linder, Kimberly Dennis, Jasmin Jones, Taryn Kirkland, Katrina Laprade, Vivian Matthews, Jennifer Owens, Adrena Rice, Katera Stevenson, and Jasmine Thornton. To date, 22 of the correctional officers, including Newton, have been sentenced to up to 51 months in prison.
Sixteen BGF gang members and associates were also convicted for participating in the racketeering conspiracy. BGF leader Tavon White pleaded guilty to his participation in the racketeering conspiracy, testified at the trial, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Inmates and leaders in the BGF gang, Russell “Rutt” Carrington and Joseph “Monster” Young were convicted after trial and sentenced to 210 months in prison and 15 years in prison, respectively.
The jury acquitted former correctional officers Clarissa Clayton, Riccole Hall, and Michelle Ricks of all charges. Ralph Timmons Jr., who was the half brother of BGF leader Tavon White, was posthumously indicted as part of the conspiracy case.
Timmons was murdered on April 1, 2013, when two men broke into his house and shot him to death. Timmons’ 11-year-old son was shot in the leg as he fled upstairs after witnessing his father’s murder. The boy jumped from his second-floor bedroom window before flagging down police officers for help. The officers searched his house and eventually found John Knox and Joseph Oglesby hiding in the basement. Knox pleaded guilty to all charges, including murder and attempted murder, and testified against Oglesby, who was convicted earlier this year of murdering Timmons and shooting his son.