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5 convicted in gang-led corruption scandal at Baltimore jail

The federal jury’s convictions — and three acquittals — came in a trial for eight people who didn’t plead guilty after a sweeping 44-person indictment was handed down in 2013

By Juliet Linderman
Associated Press

BALTIMORE, Md. — Three jail workers and two inmates were convicted in a massive jailhouse corruption scheme where gang leaders, not guards ruled the institution, impregnated corrections officers and directed crimes inside and outside the jail walls, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The federal jury’s convictions — and three acquittals — came in a trial for eight people who didn’t plead guilty after a sweeping 44-person indictment was handed down in 2013.

One of those to plead guilty and testify at the trial was Tavon “Bulldog” White, whom prosecutors described as a Black Guerilla Family gang commander and the architect of the conspiracy. White became prosecutors’ most valuable asset and said he directed guards motivated by sex and money to smuggle in drugs and cellphones.

White, who impregnated four of the guards while in the jail on an attempted murder charge, said he never forced a guard to participate.

“I didn’t have to,” White testified. “I had my children’s mothers, and plenty of other guards willing to do it for money.”

Two former Baltimore City Detention Center guards, Ashley Newton and Travis Paylor; two inmates, Joseph Young and Russell Carrington, and a jail kitchen worker, Michelle McNair, for their role in a racketeering conspiracy.

Three other corrections officers were acquitted.

“This case exposed rampant crime and corruption inside jailhouse walls, which spawns more crime in the streets,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a news release. “Continued vigilance will be needed to make sure that jails help prevent crime instead of facilitating it.”

Prosecutors had said Young, a Black Guerilla Family floor boss at the jail, administered punishments to two inmates suspected of stealing phones from another gang member. Carrington was accused of trying to recruit correctional officers to help smuggle contraband.

The guards at the state-run jail allowed gang members to administer beatings to other inmates without consequence, prosecutors say. McNair, who was working in the jail’s kitchen, was accused of having sex with gang members and helping to transport drugs through a tunnel connecting two jail buildings.

White, the government’s star witness, made headlines after federal investigators intercepted a phone call he made at the jail. “This is my jail. You understand that. I make every final call in this jail ... everything come to me,” he said in the call.

Defense attorneys insisted their clients were innocent and that the government lacked the evidence to convict them.

The indictments sparked harsh criticism, leading then-Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary Maynard to resign.

Since the indictment, the agency has increased personnel in its intelligence and investigations unit and is developing a polygraph unit to test guard applicants, spokesman Mark Vernarelli said.

Del. John Cluster, a Republican who is a former Baltimore County police officer, said part of the problem is that correctional officers often come from the same neighborhoods as gang members and know them. He also said contraband continues to get into prisons, and the state needs help in determining if new hires have any affiliation with gangs.

The department invested $4 million in technology that throws a virtual net over the facility to block calls on unauthorized cellphones. And the facility is searched at least once a week, Vernarelli said.