For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney’s Office Highlights Prosecutions This Week Removing From Our Communities Criminals Who Are Using Guns
Using Every Tool Available To Reduce Gun Crime
Baltimore and Greenbelt, Maryland – Seven defendants pleaded guilty or were sentenced this week in cases involving the illegal possession of firearms or ammunition. The charges included illegal possession of firearms or ammunition, possession of a firearm in a school zone, and drug distribution cases where firearms were seized.
Prosecutors are using all available resources and any legal means necessary to investigate and prosecute repeat violent offenders—specifically for any wrongdoing that meets office priorities, especially pandemic-related fraud, and utilizing a federal school zone statute that makes it a crime to possess a gun within 1000 feet of a school. As a result, homicides in Baltimore are down approximately 23% and nonfatal shootings are down approximately 6.5%; homicides and non-fatal shootings are also down in Prince George’s County.
The sentences and guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Toni M. Crosby of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore Field Division; Acting Commissioner Richard Worley of the Baltimore Police Department; Chief Robert McCullough of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
“Removing from our communities those violent individuals who use guns is one of the top priorities of my office,” said United States Attorney Erek L. Barron. “Working collaboratively with federal, state and local partners to implement innovative programs to reduce violent crime and using all the tools we have available, we are making progress in our fight to reduce homicides and non-fatal shootings across the state.”
“All throughout Maryland, there are criminals who are determined to carry and possess firearms, regardless of where they are or the threat it poses to the people around them,” said ATF Baltimore Special Agent in Charge Toni M. Crosby. “Some are sitting by elementary schools or standing on the corner dealing drugs with a gun right by their side. Others are convicted felons driving around with guns or keeping guns and drugs in their homes. That same level of determination they feel to do the wrong thing is matched only by the level of determination ATF and our law enforcement partners have every day to investigate and incarcerate them. The law-abiding citizens of Maryland deserve to feel safe in their communities and it is our mission to ensure we take offenders off the street who keep that from happening.”
At a press conference on August 24, 2022, U.S. Attorney Barron announced several new programs, including a new Violent and Organized Crime Section, expanded collaboration between federal, state, and local law enforcement, state funds supported the hiring of additional Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys, whose sole focus has been on violent crime, along with investigators, and other legal support personnel.
In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is continuing to sponsor and participate in reentry events for returning citizens, as well as call-ins for those at risk of re-offending, in order to connect them with services and assistance to assure their best chance for success. We are also engaging community members and youth through monthly community walks, school outreach, and gang and internet safety training.
Illegal Possession of a Firearm or Ammunition
Three defendants were sentenced for illegal possession of a firearm or ammunition and a fourth defendant pleaded guilty to that charge after law enforcement recovered loaded firearms from the defendants, including two privately made firearms, commonly known as “ghost guns,” and an AR-15 pistol.
U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Marcus Pitts, age 27, of Baltimore to 46 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for being a felon in possession of ammunition. Pitts was arrested after law enforcement saw him engage in suspected hand-to-hand drug transactions. Law enforcement recovered a 9mm ghost gun, loaded with seven rounds of ammunition and two orange prescription bottles, one containing 27 amphetamine pills and the other containing 13 alprazolam pills, as well as $426 in cash.
U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced Darius Linwood Ashby, age 36 of Capitol Heights, Maryland, to two years of home detention with electronic monitoring, followed by three years of supervised release for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Ashby was also ordered to perform 50 hours of community service. Ashby was arrested after officers performed a traffic stop and recovered a .45-caliber pistol on the driver’s seat where Ashby had been seated before being removed from the vehicle. The gun was loaded with eight rounds of .45-caliber ammunition, including one round in the chamber. Officers recovered a .45-caliber magazine and additional ammunition from Ashby’s pants pockets. The firearm was found to have been stolen on July 4, 2020 from North Carolina.
U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow sentenced Darrien Ledante Taylor, age 39, of Capitol Heights, to four years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and for possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Taylor was arrested after a search warrant executed at his home recovered a 9mm handgun loaded with 13 rounds of 9mm ammunition and approximately 24 rounds of ammunition loaded in an extended magazine; an AR-15 pistol with no serial number and with an extended magazine loaded with 39 rounds of 5.56xc45mm caliber ammunition; approximately 78 rounds of ammunition of various calibers; and two baggies with 50 pills inside, which laboratory analysis concluded contained fentanyl. Officers also recovered 13 plastic vials containing approximately 1.6 fluid ounces of phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP, from the driver-side door pocket of Taylor’s vehicle. Taylor admitted that he possessed the fentanyl and PCP with the intent to distribute the drugs and that he possessed the firearm in furtherance of his drug trafficking.
Brandon Ford, age 33, of Baltimore, was pulled over by Baltimore County Police officers after he drove by them without headlights at 2:00 a.m. on April 3, 2021. After failing several field sobriety tests, Ford was arrested and his vehicle was searched. Officers recovered a .357 caliber ghost gun, loaded with 14 rounds of .357 caliber ammunition from the vehicle console. U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow has scheduled sentencing for Ford on January 4, 2024, at 11:00 a.m.
All four defendants admitted that they knew they had been convicted of a felony and were prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition. Pitts was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Gordin; Ashby was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah B. Grossi; Taylor was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick D. Kibbe and Ford is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia C. McLane
Possession of a Firearm in a School Zone
U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Gerald Dean, age 31, of Baltimore, to 30 months in federal prison, followed by six months of home detention as part of three years of supervised release, for possession of a firearm in a school zone. As detailed in his plea agreement, law enforcement was called to Mosher and Ashburton Streets, where they found Dean sleeping in his car with the lights on and the motor running, within 1,000 feet of the Katherine Johnson Global Academy (formerly Calverton Elementary/Middle School). Dean eventually woke up and was secured by the officers. A subsequent search recovered a .380 caliber pistol loaded with eight rounds of ammunition from Dean’s vehicle and recovered eight small green containers of crack cocaine, four small black containers of heroin, 16 methamphetamine pills and a sublingual strip from Dean’s person. Dean admitted that he knew or had reasonable cause to believe that he was in a school zone at the time he possessed the firearm. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan S. Tsuei.
Possession with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances
One defendant was sentenced for possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and a second defendant pleaded guilty to that charge.
Kevin Corbett, age 32, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin, fentanyl and cocaine. An officer observing a surveillance camera in the 600 block of Poplar Grove Street in Baltimore for suspected drug activity saw Corbett engage in several suspected hand-to-hand drug transactions. The full outline of a firearm was clearly visible in Corbett’s right jacket pocket. Officers arrived at that location, arrested Corbett and recovered a .9mm handgun loaded with eight rounds of ammunition, including one in the chamber, from Corbett’s jacket pocket. Officers also recovered from Corbett 144 gel capsules containing a mixture of heroin and Para-fluorobutyryl fentanyl and 43 flip-top jugs of cocaine. Corbett admitted to possessing the firearm, which he must forfeit as part of his plea agreement. U.S. District Judge Lydia K. Griggsby set Corbett’s sentencing for October 17, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. Corbett is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Keelan F. Diana and Assistant U.S. Attorney Clinton J. Fuchs.
Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar sentenced Alonta Johnson, age 30 or Baltimore, to 138 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, specifically cocaine and buprenorphine. Officers attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a vehicle, but the driver, later identified as Johnson, fled, repeatedly opening the driver’s side door while the car was in motion. Johnson crashed into a parked vehicle and ran away, pursued by officers. As detailed in his plea agreement, Johnson dropped a handgun while running from the scene and was arrested a short time later. Officers recovered three clear baggies of a white rock-like substance on the ground next to Johnson, which were determined to be cocaine. Law enforcement also recovered seven pink containers of a white rock-like substance, 32 suboxone strips, and a digital scale, among other items. The firearm Johnson dropped was recovered and was determined to be a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol loaded with eight rounds of .22 caliber ammunition. Johnson knew that he was prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition due to previous felony convictions. As part of his plea agreement, Johnson is required to forfeit the firearm and ammunition. In addition, Chief Judge Bredar ordered that Johnson serve his federal sentence concurrent to the 30 year state sentence he is currently serving. Johnson was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan S. Tsuei.
These cases are part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (“PSN”), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy, strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the ATF, the Baltimore Police Department, the Baltimore County Police Department, and the Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in these investigations and thanked the Assistant U.S. Attorneys and the Special Assistant U.S. Attorney who are prosecuting the cases.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/project-safe-neighborhoods-psn and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.
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