It's rare to have as many elected officials in one's immediate family as do 20-year-old Frank Melvin Conaway III and 24-year-old Lacynda Ellaquinne Conaway. Their father is state Del. Frank M. Conaway Jr. (D-40th District), their grandfather is longtime elected Clerk of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City Frank M. Conaway Sr., and their grandmother is Mary Conaway, the longtime elected Baltimore City Register of Wills. The Conaway name is a proven political brand in Baltimore, propelling these three, plus Conaway Sr.'s daughter, former City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway (who recently announced she's running to succeed Mary Conaway as Register of Wills), to long careers as elected officials.
If either of the young Conaways harbor ambitions to continue the family's dynasty, though, they may have dampened considerably on Dec. 27. That's when a Baltimore County Police Department investigation into suspected pot-selling in Reisterstown blew up on the two, along with 28-year-old Laurence Evan Jones and 54-year-old Jerry Michael Foreman. The four were arrested and charged with drug-related crimes. Conaway III's most serious charge is possession with intent to distribute marijuana, for which he faces a maximum five-year sentence and a $15,000 fine. He was released on $250,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 25 for a preliminary hearing. Lacynda Conaway faces a single pot possession charge, for which she faces a maximum penalty of one year and a $1,000 fine. She was released on her own recognizance. A May 14 trial date has been set.
City Paper requested Conaway III's booking photo, but Baltimore County police spokeswoman Cathleen Batton explained Jan. 9 in an email that it "cannot be released at this time due to an ongoing investigation." Court records in the case reflect that Conaway III is unemployed, has a prior drug-possession conviction, and has twice failed to appear in court on an active 2011 Maryland Transportation Authority citation for skipping on a fare. Online District of Columbia Superior Court records show Conaway III pleaded guilty last April to drug possession and was put on probation before judgment, but he later violated the terms of his probation and in September was sentenced to 20 days incarceration.
Attempts to reach Conaway III and his mother, Latesa Elaine Thomas, for comment were unsuccessful. Conaway Jr. did not respond to an email and a phone call. Conaway Sr., reached by phone on Jan. 11, said "I would" comment on the situation, "but I don't know anything about it," adding that he's had no contact with Conaway III for 15 years. "I would suspect that [Conaway Jr.] is in the same boat that I am," in terms of being unaware of the charges.
The investigation that led to the arrests began in November, according to court records, with information from a confidential police source "regarding a subject selling marijuana in the Reisterstown area" who drove a silver Mercedes. After surveillance of the suspect's home on Hunting Horn Court in Reisterstown during December, the probe heated up quickly on Dec. 27, and police prepared to raid the place.
While the police worked on the raid warrant, Conaway III walked out of the home and drove away in the silver Mercedes. As police followed, he pulled over about a half-mile away. But as an officer approached the Mercedes on foot, Conaway III hit the gas, drove toward the dead end of the road, got out, and ran, throwing away something as he took off. Officers quickly caught up with him and found nearly $300 in cash in his pocket and, in the Mercedes, a digital scale, a shipping box, and some pot. When asked what he threw during the chase, Conaway III said it was a gram bag of weed, but a search of the area turned up about three dozen four-gram baggies of weed with an estimated street value of almost $2,500.
When the cops later raided the Hunting Horn Court home, inside they found another sister, Kelly Danean Conaway, along with Lacynda Conaway and Kareen Rashad Griffin-all in their 20s-and Thomas, Conaway III's mother. Found in Conaway III's bedroom were $7,000 in cash, bullet-proof body armor, and more pot. In the bedroom used by Lacynda Conaway and Laurence Jones were weed and "various police patches." While the raid was underway, Foreman entered the home, was patted down, and found to have a bag of pot in his pocket.
"Based on the shipping packages seized, quantity of marijuana recovered and the total U.S. currency," the court records state, "these Detectives believe that Frank Conaway is receiving shipments of marijuana through the mail and is distributing illicit drugs in Baltimore County."
Older court records involving Conaway Jr. suggest Conaway III and Lacynda Conaway grew up in tumultuous domestic circumstances. Thomas divorced Conaway Jr. in 2006, just as he was winning his first election as a state delegate-despite what many would consider politically crippling problems ("Star Power," Campaign Beat, Oct. 25, 2006). Prior to the divorce, starting in 2003, Thomas obtained a domestic-violence protective order against Conaway Jr., which stated that he "threatened to kill" her, placing her "in fear of imminent serious bodily harm," and that he "pushed her face through a back door window," and deemed him a threat to himself and others as a diagnosed sufferer of bipolar disorder who had stopped taking his prescribed medications.
Thomas, in her sworn statement in the case, mentioned a "tooth chip" and "bruises all over the body," and wrote that Conaway Jr. is "unstable" and "talking threats, keeping son in garage in fear. My entire family is afraid."
The current accusations of drug-dealing against Conaway III and Lacynda Conaway, and Conaway III's drug-possession conviction from last year, appear to be the first times the Conaway family has had to contend with a member getting in legal trouble for drug-trade ties. The longtime chairman of Conaway Jr.'s political committee, though, has a 2003 drug conviction and in 2007 was charged with firearms violations, but prosecutors dropped the case. Conaway Jr. has defended the decision to keep Adonis Sanchez Johnson as chairman, saying, "I gave a person a chance."
Whether Conaway III or Lacynda Conaway get another chance remains to be seen.