“Super-kingpin” Tommy Lee Canty Jr. may return to Baltimore
Since suffering a stroke six years ago that paralyzed the right side of his body, Tommy Lee Canty Jr.—the first drug dealer convicted as a federal “super-kingpin” in Maryland, under a 1988 law—has been virtually helpless, requiring a lift to get to and from his bed and wheelchair and a catheter to urinate. Yesterday, his prosecutor, veteran assistant U.S. attorney Andrea Smith, filed a motion to reduce Canty’s life sentence to time served, so that he can move to a Baltimore nursing home to live out his days on federal probation. He was convicted in 1990, when he was 24 years old, and now is 48 and living at a prison hospital in Minnesota called Federal Medical Center, Rochester.
Smith’s motion says Canty’s “life expectancy is indeterminate, but his long-term prognosis is poor due to a high risk of injury from seizures [or] another stroke or heart attack due to poorly controlled hypertension.” Though he “can understand what is being said to him,” Canty “is unable to speak,” the motion adds.
Canty’s prosecution was a major feather in the cap of law enforcers in the late 1980s, when he was considered one of a new breed of young dealers, who, like Anthony Ayeni Jones, tossed out established street codes that had previously constrained drug-driven violence and forewent apprenticeships under established players, instead rising quickly atop high-volume enterprises while still in their teens—and swiftly fell, due largely to bold, indiscreet tactics that failed to foil law enforcers’ investigative efforts.
By the time they were taken down, Canty and his crew of youngsters had already made millions by moving hundreds of kilograms of drugs over a three-year period ending in 1989, commanding East Baltimore turf along Lanvale St. and Lafayette Ave. One of Canty’s co-defendants, Mayreda Henderson, spawned a new generation of young, brash dealers: her sons, Tracy Love and Tamall Parker, became poster children for Baltimore’s “Stop Snitching” culture in the mid-2000s as top lieutenants in the “Special” drug organization, against which they cooperated when it was brought down in 2009 by federal authorities. Love was murdered in West Baltimore last fall, at the age of 29 and nearly two years after his 2011 release from prison, where Parker, now 27, remains until his scheduled release in 2016.
Canty, sidelined by a sentence that sought to keep him locked up until he died, has now spent half his life in prison. Should U.S. District judge J. Frederick Motz grant Smith’s motion, which argues that Canty’s “paralysis and severely debilitated medical condition due to a stroke constitute an ‘extraordinary and compelling reason’ that justifies” his sentence being reduced, he’ll at least be able to see visitors more freely and easily in a nursing home than in federal prison.