Wednesday, December 8, 2004
Police: DVD aimed at jailed drug kingpin
BALTIMORE -- Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony might have provided celebrity appeal in Stop Snitching, a witness-intimidation DVD for sale on the streets of Baltimore.
But law enforcement officials told The (Baltimore) Sun the
profanity-laced production was aimed at Tyree Stewart, a man who
once ran a $50 million drug ring in West Baltimore, now in prison
and cooperating with investigators.
Stewart is the target of many of the anti-witness rants on the
recently released DVD -- the seventh "Skinny Suge" production to
hit the market, according to lawyers and law enforcement officials.
They say Stewart is believed to have helped federal authorities
indict Solothal Thomas, or "Itchy Man," alleged by police to have
been one of the most violent "enforcers" in the city.
Thomas has been acquitted of two murder and 12 attempted murder charges in state court. But several months ago, he was indicted on
federal conspiracy charges that could carry the death penalty.
"They're saying that Solothal Thomas and his brother did a
murder-for-hire for Tyree Stewart's drug organization," Thomas'
defense attorney Arcangelo M. Tuminelli told The Sun.
To understand the intrigue, one has to go back to the late
1990s, when Tyree Stewart -- also known as "Black" and "Blickie"
-- ran one of the city's largest, and most profitable, marijuana
He sold "Arizona" marijuana that he obtained from suppliers in
New York, prosecutors said -- a high-quality form of the drug that
sold in Baltimore for about $2,000 a pound.
At "shops" throughout the west side, workers packaged the
drugs for retail sale managed by Stewart's "lieutenants." Stewart
also sold wholesale, prosecutors said.
According to authorities, Stewart protected his territory. His
enforcers intimidated potential rivals and protected his turf with
violence -- including murder, prosecutors said.
In court papers, prosecutors say Stewart paid $10,000 for the
2002 killing of 21-year-old Terry Cheeks -- retaliation for a
killing of one of Stewart's associates. Stewart also used Thomas as
an "enforcer," they said.
But, by the early part of this decade, authorities were onto
Stewart and his operation. Confidential informants had tipped off
detectives. They watched drug transactions during surveillance
operations at some of Stewart's shops, according to court papers.
In March 2003, investigators installed a closed-circuit
television camera and an audio interception device in the kitchen
and living room of the shop at 1809 W. Lanvale St. They also
started monitoring Stewart's cell phones.
Over the ensuing months, investigators gathered evidence against the organization -- including Stewart's conversations about
countersurveillance techniques. Authorities called it "Operation
In August 2003, a federal grand jury indicted Stewart and 31
co-defendants for their alleged involvement in the drug trafficking
enterprise. Agents also seized more than $90,000, handguns and four
luxury vehicles -- including Stewart's $100,000 Mercedes-Benz CL.
"It was a huge case," said Anthony Barksdale, acting chief of
the city's organized crime division, who spearheaded Operation
Almost right away, according to court papers, Stewart began
In one court motion, a federal agent details how, the day he was arrested, Stewart made a call to an associate, trying to get him to
drop off money and a gun to an undercover officer.
Court documents suggest this wasn't a new gig for Stewart.
For instance, one defense lawyer noted in a motion that the
Police Department had previously "handled Tyree Stewart as a
confidential informant" -- the type of "snitching" the men on the
DVD call unacceptable.
Law enforcement officials say they are frustrated by the
pervasive street attitude that "witnessing" is poor behavior -- a
sentiment clearly demonstrated in Stop Snitching.
In one scene, men sitting on the steps of a rowhouse express
dismay after being asked about "Tyree" by someone off camera.
"Word is, they rats," one man exclaimed. "They got our hood
so [expletive] up, where [people] think ratting is cool."
"Black changed the norm," the first man said, referring to
Stewart by his street name. "Black made the [people] think it was
cool to rat and get some money. That's why we got federal
penitentiaries all across the country, where people say them
Baltimore [people] rat."
In the scene involving Carmelo Anthony, the basketball player
refers to Black and laughingly says that he might put some "money
on his [expletive] brains."
It is unclear whether Anthony is talking about Tyree Stewart or
a freestyle rapper in the DVD, who, in the preceding scene, seems
to makes fun of the professional ballplayer. But many others in the
DVD are clearly talking about Stewart.
"We see this group still concerned about a case that we took
down a year and a half ago," Barksdale said. "They still feel
this case. It still has a huge impact."