Lexington Market Utz vendor held in gun case

The owner of the Lexington Market Utz stand charged with illegal gun sales was denied release Thursday in Baltimore's U.S. District Court.

Michael Papantonakis was represented by public defender Joseph Evans, who presented his client as a gun collector who made a few sales to a longtime family friend, and an associate of that friend. The friend turned out to be a confidential informant and the associate an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The prosecution maintained that Papantonakis, in events outlined in an affidavit filed March 31, thought that he was selling guns to members of MS-13, and discussed previous sales to the Hell's Angels, Bloods, and Crips.

Evans described threats against the manager of Lexington Market allegedly made by Papantonakis as "venting" over a business dispute, and pointed to his client's lack of any previous criminal convictions and his longtime ownership of the Lexington Market landmark as factors in his favor. Evans said Papantonakis was being held in the Supermax prison, and threats had been made against him by rival gang members who had seen media reports regarding Papantonakis' statements about selling guns to other gangs. Evans said that publicity surrounding the charges against him were threatening his business.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Dwyer called Evans' assertions that Papantonakis was a collector selling his personal collection of firearms "ridiculous" and pointed to statements in the charges that indicated Papantonakis had a supplier for the guns, and had engaged in other transactions. She said that in other statements recorded by the ATF, Papantonakis declined to sell certain guns because they were registered in his name.

Judge Catherine C. Blake, in declining to release Papantonakis, said that while she would leave to door open to moving him to another facility should space become available, the electronic monitoring and work release proposed by Evans were not sufficient for the charges against him.

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