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Marlow Bates, Son of a Famous Gangster, Sentenced in Prison-Gang Conspiracy Case

November 18, 2009

Bates | Image by Booking photo

Editor’s Note: An updated version of this story appears in Mobtown Beat, Nov. 25, 2009

Marlow Bates’ stint in prison, where he’s been detained since his April arrest for aiding an alleged drug-dealing conspiracy by the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison gang (“Black-Booked”), appears to have improved his health and outlook. As he stands before U.S. District Court judge William Quarles in court on Nov. 17, preparing to hear his sentence after entering a guilty plea in August, Bates’ neatly cropped hair, smiling face, and alert bearing stand in stark contrast to his booking photo, in which he looks exceedingly worse for wear. It’s a comparison his attorney, Christopher Davis, suggests to Quarles.

“I’m astounded,” Davis says, “at how different he is than how he looks in the photo that appeared in the City Paper.”

Davis is eager to convince the judge that the 23-year-old Bates “sees something very, very wrong with how his life has been going.” Bates’ “rocky road” and “chaotic upbringing” as a youngster, Davis adds, led him to the circumstances of his arrest. The attorney contends that his client’s incarceration served as “a wake-up call” for the young man, who “entered a very early plea in this case, and has readily accepted responsibility.” Bates stands to tell Quarles, “I just want to apologize.”

According to Bates’ plea agreement, he admits to being “determined to be engaged in the distribution of narcotics” on behalf of the BGF and its Maryland leader, Eric Brown, “inside the Maryland Correctional System and in Baltimore City.” He also admits to conspiring to distribute “more than 40 grams, but less than 60 grams of heroin.”

Quarles, having already heard Assistant U.S. Attorney Clinton Fuchs recommend a prison sentence of 46 to 57 months-the amount suggested by the federal sentencing guidelines-says he thinks “the low of end of the guideline is appropriate.” He orders Bates to prison for 46 months, followed by three years of supervised release, with conditions that he participate in drug-and-alcohol treatment and screening, along with training to receive his G.E.D.

“What’s up, ma!” Bates says to his mother, in the courtroom gallery, as he is led away by marshals. “Love you, too, Marlow,” she responds.

Afterward, outside the courtroom, Bates’ friends and family listen as Davis explains that the sentence is much better than the 30 to 40 years that others in the case are likely to face, should they be convicted by a jury.

Davis confirms, when asked by a reporter, that his client is the son of Marlow Bates-a famous drug-dealer in Baltimore’s crime annals, who is still serving a sentence that began in the 1980s. “That did not help when he was arrested,” Davis says.

The elder Bates’ fame was elevated by the HBO series The Wire, which includes a character named Marlo Stanfield. According to a 2006 City Paper interview with The Wire‘s David Simon, the character’s name is a composite of the elder Bates and Timirror Stanfield. Both were targets of Wire co-creator Ed Burns when he was a Baltimore Police detective.

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