Prosecutors allege that D.C. Assault co-founder Curtis Malone played leading role in wide-ranging drug conspiracy

Larry Morris/The Washington Post - Curtis Malone, co-founder of the D.C. Assault youth basketball program, will remain in jail until his trial on drug-trafficking charges.

D.C. Assault co-founder Curtis Malone’s appeal for bond was denied in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, and he will remain in jail until the completion of his trial on federal drug trafficking charges.

In her ruling, Judge Ellen S. Huvelle said “there is credible evidence that [Malone] is a large-scale supplier” after prosecutors alleged he played a leading role in a drug conspiracy that may have spanned the entire East Coast.

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Malone was arrested on Aug. 9 and indicted by a grand jury on charges of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute large quantities of heroin and cocaine as well as carrying a firearm during a drug-trafficking offense. Malone has pleaded not guilty to all charges and faces a mandatory prison sentence of at least 15 years.

Prosecutors say he will face additional charges in the near future.

Malone’s argument for pretrial release hinged on 12 letters from friends and family highlighting the “community support” and respect he engendered while building D.C. Assault into one of the nation’s most prominent youth basketball programs. It included letters from Dalonte Hill, an assistant coach for the Maryland men’s basketball team, and former Duke basketball star Nolan Smith, Malone’s stepson.

Huvelle expressed doubts in court last month about whether Malone could be adequately supervised by pretrial services if released to his family. Malone’s attorney, Billy Martin, said his client would be willing to pay for a private security service that would provide 24-hour surveillance.

But in a 23-page opposition motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court, the U.S. attorney’s office equated such an arrangement to a “private jail” and wrote, “Malone’s drug dealing activities have been extensive and long-standing, contrary to the picture of him as portrayed in letters from his friends and his family.”

The motion laid out new details about the case, describing testimony from another DEA investigation that suggests Malone was part of a network of drug traffickers along the East Coast who received “hundreds and hundreds of kilograms” of narcotics on a monthly basis from the same supplier since at least 2009.

In court proceedings Wednesday, assistant U.S. attorney Stephen Gripkey said Malone’s role in D.C. Assault was used as a disguise for his drug-trafficking activities. A wiretap on two of Malone’s phones revealed he used basketball apparel such as shoe brands and uniform sizes as code words for narcotics and money under aliases such as “White Boy” and “Daddy.”

During a search of Malone’s Upper Marlboro home on Aug. 9, police recovered one kilogram of cocaine, 84 grams of heroin, one .44-caliber semiautomatic handgun and paraphernalia associated with the distribution of controlled substances. They also seized one kilogram of cocaine and $20,000 in cash from co-defendant Stephen Williams after he emerged from Malone’s home that day.

But prosecutors revealed in their motion that police also seized approximately 508 grams of cocaine from co-defendant Derico Williams during a traffic stop after he met with Malone at Malone’s home on June 13.

Prosecutors also said they have evidence of at least five other drug transactions involving Malone since Williams’s arrest, either at his home, in his car or at local restaurants. The evidence was collected from a camera mounted on a utility pole in Malone’s neighborhood, telephone calls and text messages captured through a wiretap, and GPS location data used to track his vehicle.

Law enforcement officials also purchased more than 200 grams of narcotics in controlled buys as part of the investigation.

Prosecutors allege Malone appeared to be well aware he was under investigation in the months preceding his arrest.

On Feb. 21, Malone observed a law enforcement official conducting surveillance outside his home as he drove away from his garage and tried to block the officer from leaving the area. He then attempted to follow the surveillance unit, and police intercepted a telephone call in which Malone inquired about the vehicle’s license plate.

In June, DEA agents were following Malone to Baltimore for an alleged drug transaction when Malone’s driving became “erratic,” and agents broke off their surveillance after they became concerned their vehicles had been spotted. Moments later, an intercepted telephone call from Malone revealed that a separate vehicle had been dispatched to make sure Malone was not being followed by law enforcement officials.

“He’s obviously quite clever,” Huvelle said during her bond ruling Wednesday.

At one point, law enforcement intercepted a telephone call from Derico Williams to Malone asking for advice on how to answer questions about his “second job.” Malone told Williams that he tells his wife, “What you don’t know, you can’t tell.” Prosecutors believe this runs counter to Monica Malone’s claim, made in a letter to the U.S. District Court, that she was “still in shock” by her husband’s arrest and “never saw this coming.”

Prosecutors also stated in the motion that one of Malone’s alleged co-conspirators, Micah Bidgell, has been speculating about the identity of a cooperating witness in the case, “indicating, in so many words, that he will not go down without a fight.” Bidgell remains at large after fleeing the scene during a traffic stop on Aug. 9, and police consider him to be potentially armed and dangerous.

Malone was initially denied his release in August, and details from the investigation have trickled out throughout his bond appeal process. During court proceedings last month, prosecutors said a child was also present during the Aug. 9 drug transaction that ultimately led to Malone’s arrest.

“There’s a lot of people who have suffered from what he was peddling. . . . This isn’t a couple bags of weed or a blunt,” Gripkey said in court on Sept. 20.

 
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