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BGF’s Tavon White signs guilty-plea agreement

July 17, 2013

Tavon WhiteLast night, the Baltimore Sun reported that Tavon White, the alleged ringleader of the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison gang racketeering conspiracy that federal prosecutors say essentially took control of Baltimore’s detention center, intends to plead guilty.

White, the lead defendant in the case, which includes 13 accused correctional officers (COs) and has sparked the creation of a Maryland General Assembly special committee to examine issues in the state’s prison system, is scheduled for re-arraignment on Aug. 6, according to the federal court docket. If White does plead guilty, he’ll be the first defendant in the 25-member conspiracy to do so – though one, Ralph Timmons, Jr., can’t, because he was murdered before the case was unsealed in April.

The Sun apparently obtained a copy of White’s guilty-plea agreement, which has not yet been entered in the court’s docket, and reports that it includes language indicating that more COs may be implicated for corrupt conduct. “White, 36, admitted to knowing ‘many other Correctional Officers involved in contraband trafficking and sexual relations with inmates,’ according to his plea agreement with prosecutors, which does not identify those officers,” the Sun reported.

CO corruption has been an ongoing issue for the state’s prison system, as City Paper reported in 2010. In addition to the well-documented history of CO corruption cases involving the BGF and other gangs, the current BGF racketeering case involving 13 COs is joined by another series of open federal cases in Maryland involving 15 COs, many of whom have pleaded guilty, who are accused of participating in a correctional culture that condones beating inmates and conspiring to cover up their alleged crimes.

Unlike White’s case, though, the obstruction-of-justice scandal has not received much attention from legislators or news outlets other than City Paper. In an interesting twist, though, the alleged conduct in 2008 that underlies today’s scandal sparked the Maryland General Assembly in 2010 to pass a law making it harder to crack down on COs suspected of misconduct – a law that federal investigators said was a contributing factor in the corruption alleged in White’s case.