Man accused of leading Baltimore jailhouse gang pleads not guilty


The Baltimore City Detention Center is the site where scores of crimes allegedly were committed by a prison gang and correctional officers. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
April 29, 2013

Tavon White, the alleged gang leader who federal prosecutors say controlled the Baltimore City Detention Center through money and sex, pleaded not guilty Monday to racketeering, money-laundering and drug-dealing charges.

White, 36, made his first appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore since the indictment was handed down last week and FBI agents fanned out across the region to arrest White’s 24 co­defendants, who included 13 female correctional officers. White, believed to be a high-ranking member of the Black Guerilla Family, allegedly fathered five children with four of the officers, two of whom had his name tattooed on their bodies.

When asked by Judge Tim Sullivan whether he had reviewed the 48-page indictment, White responded, “I’ve looked at it.” Each of the three counts that White faces carries a maximum sentence of 20 years if he is convicted.

White gained control of the state-run Baltimore pretrial detention facility during his three-year stay, prosecutors say. He was waiting to go to trial on attempted murder charges after two previous court proceedings ended in hung juries. The third trial is scheduled for June, White told the judge.

White chose to be arraigned Monday to save himself another long trip from Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, Md., where he has been held in “administrative segregation,” alone in a cell for several weeks, his court-appointed attorney, Gary Proctor, said.


Tavon White (Courtesy of Anne Arundel County Police Department )

At the hearing, Proctor raised concerns about the conditions of White’s confinement, saying that in addition to being alone, White has a camera on him at all times, “without so much as a Bible to read,” Proctor said.

White’s status is “akin to protective custody,” said Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Such arrangements are typical, he said, for high-profile detainees once they get to a new facility.

At the hearing, the judge was more concerned about White being in the custody of the Maryland prison system and not the federal government’s, given the allegations that he conspired with correctional officers. Members of the Black Guerilla Family have been prosecuted at other Maryland state prison facilities on similar charges of smuggling drugs, cellphones and other contraband into the prison with the help of guards.

“I would really like to see you in the custody of the U.S. Marshals,” Sullivan said.

Appearing next before Sullivan was Tiffany Linder, 27, of Severn, one of the correctional officers charged with helping White. Linder pleaded not guilty to the charges, including an allegation that she warned White about an unscheduled search of cells.

Linder, who prosecutors say was in an intimate relationship with White, was the only co­defendant who was not arrested last week because she is eight months pregnant. She was allowed to voluntarily surrender, said Marcy Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office. She has been suspended from her job without pay.

Sullivan placed Linder on supervised release and ordered her not to leave Maryland or the Washington area. The other correctional officers were released under similar conditions after their arrests.

Sex, drugs and prisoners were all involved in this recent FBI sting. The Washington Post’s Ann Marimow explains what was happening behind the prison walls. (The Fold/The Washington Post)

Corrupt correctional officers were allegedly critical to the Black Guerilla Family’s operations inside the jail. They allegedly took advantage of looser screening standards for employees to smuggle in marijuana, prescription medication, weapons, cellphones and other contraband. Using these supplies, the Black Guerilla Family members were allegedly able to run a profitable drug enterprise inside the jail and use the proceeds to bribe other correctional officers, maintenance workers and jail employees.

White was allegedly a “Bushman,” or leader within the gang, with de facto reign over the detention center.

“This is my jail, you understand,” White said in a wiretapped conversation. “I make every final call in this jail.”

Annys Shin has been a staff writer at the Washington Post since 2004.
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