Five of eight Black Guerrilla Family defendants convicted in Baltimore federal court

The Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office just issued a press release on the jury verdict in the racketeering trial against the eight remaining defendants in the 44-defendant Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison-gang case involving Baltimore correctional officers (COs): Five were found guilty, including two inmates, two former COs, and one former contract employee with the prison system. Three former COs—Clarissa Clayton, Riccole Hall, and Michelle Ricks—were acquitted of all charges. The conspiracy involved smuggling contraband, including drugs, tobacco, and cellphones, inside the Baltimore City Detention Center via corrupt COs.

Those convicted were inmates Joseph Young and Russell Carrington, former COs Ashley Newton and Travis Paylor, and Michelle McNair, who worked in the jail's kitchen.

"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 statement.

Notably absent among those charged were any jail supervisors, despite the fact that FBI investigators unearthed evidence that "some prison officials have informal verbal understandings" with lead defendant Tavon White and other BGF leaders in which "the officials will turn a blind eye to contraband smuggling and actively protect White and the BGF by warning them of investigations and interdiction efforts" while "the BGF leaders reduce the violence inside the prison." They also found that a "corrections lieutenant" had agreed to let Young, if White left the jail, "make money by selling contraband inside of BCDC if Young and BGF would keep down the incidence of prison violence." Finally, they learned that the BGF's control of the jail economy generates "a significant amount of money . . . used to bribe" COs and "prison management."

The case, first indicted in 2013, brought under renewed scrutiny the culture of corruption that was already known to beset the state's correctional apparatus and called into question the wisdom of a 2010 state law that made it harder to discipline or fire COs suspected of misconduct. These issues are inherent in the rest of Rosenstein's statement about the verdict: "Continued vigilance," he said, "will be needed to make sure that jails help prevent crime instead of facilitating it."

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