Jury Convicts Five in Jailhouse Smuggling Scheme in Md. - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Jury Convicts Five in Jailhouse Smuggling Scheme in Md.

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(Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)

BALTIMORE (AP) - Five people were convicted in a massive jailhouse corruption scheme where gang leaders ruled the institution, directed crimes inside and outside the walls, dealt drugs and impregnated guards, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Vickie LeDuc, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore, said a federal jury convicted two 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.

The defendants were part of a sweeping 44-person indictment handed down in 2013. Thirty-five people pleaded guilty, including Tavon "Bulldog" White, whom prosecutors described as a Black Guerilla Family gang commander and the architect of the conspiracy.

It was not immediately clear which counts were among the convictions. Prosecutors planned a news conference for Thursday afternoon to discuss the verdicts.

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 smuggled drugs and cellphones into the jail and 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, who took the stand as 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.

"Whatever I say is law," White said in another call. "I am the law."

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

The case revealed details about how inmates controlled the guards tasked with supervising them, and provided a glimpse into the strategies of the Black Guerilla Family's operations both on the streets and behind bars.

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

Several new laws were passed to try to strengthen security and ensure oversight. One enables the state to remove officers from an institution without pay for bringing a cellphone or charger into a facility, in addition to drugs and alcohol. Another raises fines for visitors who smuggle electronics to inmates and increases jail time for inmates caught with contraband.

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