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Articles Posted in Federal Crimes

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fire-1030751_1280-300x199It has been almost four years since a popular neighborhood bar in Pasadena burned down and was permanently shuttered, and now an end to the criminal case that followed is in sight.  A 36-year-old man from the same Anne Arundel County neighborhood as the bar recently pled guilty to a federal arson charge after being indicted back in September of 2019.  He now faces a minimum of 5 years in prison and a maximum of 20 years for his actions, and will learn his fate in July when the case is set for sentencing at the Baltimore federal courthouse.

Law enforcement officers likely made the initial determination that the fire was incendiary or set deliberately while the wood building was still smoking, though the bizarre details surrounding the fire unfolded in the weeks that followed.  Investigators from the ATF and the Anne Arundel County Fire and Explosives Investigation Unit confirmed their suspicions about an intentional fire by locating charred remains of homemade explosive devices and traces of gasoline, which is a common accelerant in arson cases.  Law enforcement officers were also able to view surveillance footage that captured several flashes of light preceding areas of the building catching fire that were likely the incendiary devices making contact with the building.  A police K9 unit was also able to locate the presence of gasoline on the other side of a fence that surrounded the bar, which was determined to be the area where the makeshift explosive devices or Molotov cocktails were ignited and thrown.  Finally, law enforcement recovered a glove that contained both traces of an accelerant and the defendant’s DNA.

The case against the defendant quickly became open and shut, but the motivation for his actions is what made this case bizarre.  According to the plea agreement and Maryland public case search records, the defendant was charged with a domestic second-degree assault and a petty theft for an incident that occurred outside of the bar about a week before the fire.  This assault was captured on the bar’s surveillance cameras, which the defendant attempted to destroy by setting fire to the whole building.  The irony in this situation is twofold, as a police officer actually witnessed the assault, thus making the surveillance cameras a bonus rather than an essential part of the assault case.  In addition, the surveillance system not only survived the fire, but recorded the defendant’s actions on the night of the fire.  The defendant ended up pleading guilty to the assault in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County in Annapolis, and was given a 3-year suspended sentence.

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money-1428594__480-300x200This week at the Greenbelt Federal Courthouse a 32-year-old man from Prince George’s County pleaded guilty to manufacturing and passing counterfeit currency.  Sentencing is currently set for early June, and the defendant faces up to 5 years in prison for conspiracy to pass counterfeit currency and up to 20 years in prison for manufacturing counterfeit currency.  As part of the plea agreement the PG County man from Capital Heights admitted to conspiring with two other individuals to print and use fake $100 and $20 bills.  The printing took place at the defendant’s home, and then he would either sell the fake money at a discount or buy merchandise with it at local retailers.  At some point law enforcement officers caught wind of the conspiracy and applied for a search warrant, which was executed in March of 2018.  Agents recovered cell phones, three counterfeit $100 bills, linen copy paper, a printer, a .38 caliber revolver and shell casing, and a scale and baggies.  The U.S. Secret Service took over the investigation and determined that the ink contained in the seized printer’s ink cartridge was indistinguishable from numerous counterfeit bills that were later recovered.

The defendant and his co-conspirators were not arrested by federal agents after the search warrant was executed, and unbeknownst to them the investigation continued.  Federal law enforcement agencies are known for their patience in gathering as much evidence as possible before charges are formally filed, and this case is a perfect example.  In the summer and fall of 2019 federal law enforcement continued to monitor the suspects and documented numerous transactions where counterfeit currency was used.  In July of 2019 law enforcement conducted a traffic stop on the defendant’s vehicle and found 18 counterfeit $100 bills after a brief chase where the defendant attempted to run away.  A few months later in October of 2019 the defendant’s vehicle was again stopped, and again he attempted to flee.  During his brief flight the defendant discarded counterfeit currency in a trashcan, which was recovered by law enforcement.  Police also recovered uncut sheets of counterfeit $20 bills.  All told the defendant admitted to passing between $95,000 and $150,000 in counterfeit bills.  The defendant agreed to pay at least $95,000 in restitution joint and severally with the other co-conspirators.  It is reasonable to question whether the victims would have been defrauded out of this much money if the suspects had been prosecuted in 2018, rather than more than a year later.

It does not seem like the defendant has a lengthy criminal history, which should help his cause at sentencing.  On the other hand, the government will certainly emphasize the fact that the defendant continued to engage in criminal activity despite the execution of multiple searches and seizures upon his home, car and person.  The defendant also ran from police twice, and showed no signs of abandoning the criminal conspiracy on his own.  The defendant was even charged with felony theft and possessing forged currency in Maryland state court in the District Court for Montgomery County in Rockville, but these charges were dismissed likely in anticipation of a federal indictment.  The defendant had ample opportunity to see that law enforcement was on to him.

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handcuffs-354042_640-300x225Authorities have arrested a 28-year old Maryland man for his involvement in the storming of the U.S. Capitol that occurred on January 6 in Washington, and the incriminating evidence came from an obvious yet unlikely source.  Federal and local law enforcement have been combing through any available evidence in order to locate potential suspects, which typically includes comparing surveillance video with anonymous tips and social media posts.  This particular defendant was caught in a rather unusual and ironic way, as his own GPS ankle monitor ended up being the smoking gun evidence of his presence.  The suspect was on probation for a 4th degree burglary charge out of Baltimore County, and had recently violated his probation in November.  According to court records the defendant was sentenced to 45 days in jail, but all the time was suspended in lieu of 18 months of supervised probation, which apparently included a term of home detention to be monitored by GPS.  On January 6 the man, who currently lives in Silver Spring, Montgomery County, requested permission to travel to Washington D.C.  He was granted this permission, but certainly not for the purpose of storming the Capitol building.

According to news reports and public court records the defendant’s probation officer alerted the FBI that the defendant admitted to being inside the U.S. Capitiol on January 6 but later recanted.  Nonetheless, the FBI opened an investigation as to the man’s involvement with the incident at the Capitol that was corroborated by a cooperating witness.  The FBI compared the information from the Maryland Department of Parole and Probation with the tip from the cooperating witness and determined that the man’s movements while in Washington were consistent with involvement in the storming of the Capitol.  The FBI agent then applied for a criminal charges on January 15 for one count of unlawful activities on Capitol grounds/ disorderly conduct and one count of unlawful activities on Capitol grounds/ assemblages and display of flags.  These charges are codifed under 40 U.S.C. § 5104, and have a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail, which means they are misdemeanors.  It is not clear whether the man has been arrested on these charges yet, but in addition to the federal charges he will likely face another violation of probation and possible arrest.  The defendant appears to have only one prior criminal conviction, which was a felony theft case from Frederick County.

This case presents a multitude of interesting legal issues, and the Blog will continue to follow it to see how the government attempts to prove that his conduct was disorderly and what type of acts he committed on the Capitol Grounds.  The GPS apparently showed that he was in a restricted area, so the government may argue this is enough to sustain a conviction.  The case is also an important reminder that GPS ankle monitors and other tracking devices are incredibly accurate and detailed logs are kept for all individuals who are being monitored.  Home detention/ house arrest with GPS monitoring is obviously a better alternative to incarceration, but it is by no means easy sledding.  Private GPS monitoring companies are expensive, and sometimes stricter that state sponsored alternatives.  Benjamin Herbst has extensive experience securing the release of individuals on GPS monitoring, but knows the drawbacks and the potential downfalls.  If you know someone who is currently incarcerated Benjamin may be able to secure their release by filing a bail review motion or habeas corpus motion.  Benjamin is an experienced Maryland Criminal defense lawyer who handles state and federal cases in all counties including Montgomery County and Baltimore County.  He is also licensed to practice in Florida and specializes in burglary, disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxicationtheftjuvenile crimes and probation violations. Call Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598 or 954-543-0305 in Florida.

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packs-163497_1280-300x200This week in the Greenbelt federal courthouse a Baltimore man was sentenced to 151 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release for robbing a Hunt Valley bank.  The robbery occurred back in December of 2019 in northern Baltimore County, close to where the man reportedly worked.  The bank is located on York Road in Hunt Valley, an area with a relatively low crime rate.  According to facts presented at the plea, the man walked into the bank and handed the teller a note that demanded all the loose 100’s, 50’s and 20’s in the teller’s drawer.  The note also announced that a robbery was taking place, and that the man had a gun and would begin shooting if the teller did not meet his demands.  The teller complied with the demands and handed over $700 in U.S. currency to the suspect.  The 58-year old robber then fled the bank on foot without incident.  The robbery was captured on interior surveillance footage, which showed a clear image of the man’s face.  After the robbery the bank contacted law enforcement and circulated an internal alert to its employees with a picture of the suspect.

Five days after the robbery the suspect entered a different branch of the same bank that he robbed in order to make a deposit.  Apparently, the man held an account with the bank.  An employee recognized the man from the image in the internal alert and called law enforcement.  The man was arrested wearing the same clothes he had worn during the robbery just 5 days earlier, so it was not a stretch to say the government had a solid case.  It turns out that the defendant was also on supervised release for a prior bank robbery, which undoubtedly factored in to the overall sentence of 12.5 years in prison.  The defendant will likely serve about 10 years, but could be released sooner to a halfway house depending on the evolution of criminal justice reform over the next decade.

This case could have been prosecuted in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County by the State’s Attorney’s Office, but the fact that the defendant already had a federal bank robbery conviction made it an easy decision for the case to go federal.  Remember that federal prosecutors have jurisdiction to prosecute just about any bank robbery that occurs in the United States due to associations with the U.S. Treasury and FDIC insurance policies.  There is no information to say whether the man actually possessed a gun as outlined in his note, but it is reasonable to conclude he did not.  The man seemed to be an experienced (albeit unsuccessful bank robber) based on the fact that he asked for loose bills and knew that any actual display of force was unnecessary.  Loose bills are less likely to be fitted with tracking devices or dye packs, than stacks of cash.  Any stack of bills given to a robber by a teller would likely contain a discreet tracking device that is activated immediately upon movement outside the bank.

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firearm-409000__480-200x300The United State Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland recently announced that a Baltimore man pleaded guilty to one count of discharging a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime.  The incident occurred in northwest Baltimore City in the area of Park Heights Avenue and Cold Spring Lane, where according to facts recited in the plea, the defendant and codefendant regularly sold marijuana.  Specifically, the defendant admitted to selling marijuana in the area for several months from the end of 2018 to early 2019 when the incident occurred.  On February 22, 2019 the defendant admitted that he was selling marijuana while armed with a handgun.  The defendant then observed a suspicious vehicle that appeared to be watching him and his co-conspirators.  The suspicious vehicle parked close by and the defendant called the driver over to speak with him.  The defendant then observed that the driver was armed and a struggle to disarm the man ensued.  The driver broke free and began to run away, along with two other occupants of the vehicle.  The three men were chased by the defendant and his co-conspirator, and multiple shots were fired in their direction.  One of the vehicle occupants was shot multiple times and died from his injuries.

The defendant was originally charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first and second-degree assault, firearm use in a crime of violence and handgun possession in the District Court of Maryland on Wabash Avenue.  The only charges that made it to the Circuit Court were first-degree murder, firearm use in a crime of violence, firearm possession by a convicted felon, and handgun on person.  The case was nolle prossed. in August of 2019 and then filed in Federal Court.  The federal government and the defendant have agreed to a plea that includes a jail sentence of 20 to 25 years in prison.  Under 18 U.S.C  § 924 discharging a firearm in a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime carries a 10-year mandatory penalty.  If the judge accepts the guilty plea at the March sentencing hearing plea the sentence will be within the range of 20-25 years, and likely followed by supervised release.  This case is another example of the federal government agreeing to prosecute a case that would otherwise be handled in state court.  As we have stated over the last several years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland is eager to prosecute gun cases in Baltimore City that involve convicted felons, drug trafficking and crimes of violence.

It appears that the defense worked out a favorable plea deal, although 20-25 in federal prison is certainly a heavy sentence.  The defendant avoided a murder conviction and a potential life sentence, which even in state court would likely end up being more than 20-25 years.  Unlike the federal system that did away with parole, Maryland still paroles almost all of its prison inmates at some point.  Parole for a life sentence though is still not a foregone conclusion.  The Blog will continue to follow this case and other state cases that are picked up and prosecuted by the feds.  As long as the gun violence in Baltimore City remains at critical levels the feds will continue to intervene with prosecutions.  Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland criminal defense attorney who specializes in gun crimes and federal weapons crimes such as handgun possession by a convicted felon, use of a firearm in a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime, improper exhibition of a firearm, assault, carrying a concealed firearm, murder and attempted murder.  He is also licensed to practice criminal defense in Florida, where he has won numerous jury trials for the most serious of gun offenses.  Contact Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598 or 954-543-0305 in Florida.

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dollar-1362244_1280-1-300x200This week at the Greenbelt federal courthouse, a Prince George’s County man was sentenced 4 years in prison for a bank robbery that occurred back in 2019.  According to the guilty plea the defendant entered a bank in Oxon Hill, Maryland during normal business hours and demanded his money.  When the bank teller told the defendant that he would need to provide his identification and debit card in order to withdraw money, the man apparently became upset.  He then demanded money again from the teller, but this time he explained he was committing a robbery and that he would shoot everyone in the bank.  The bank teller was obviously shaken, but followed her training and complied with the man’s request.  She handed over $202 in cash and the man fled the scene.  Unbeknownst to the defendant, the stack of cash contained a GPS tracking device that was likely activated automatically upon being removed from the drawer.

Law enforcement followed the GPS signal and located the defendant a short time later at a fast food restaurant in the same shopping center as the bank.  The defendant was arrested and police recovered the $202 in cash on his person.  Police also reviewed surveillance footage from inside the restaurant that showed the man discarding an object in a trash can.  This object turned out to be the GPS tracking device, which police recovered and entered into evidence.  The robbery did not occur on federal property, and the Prince George’s County Police was likely the agency that apprehended the defendant, but nonetheless he was charged under the federal bank robbery statute.  18 U.S. Code §2113 was established to give the federal government jurisdiction to prosecute robbery from any bank, credit union or savings and loan association in the United States that operates under U.S. law, is a member of the Federal Reserve or is insured by the FDIC.  This basically includes any bank, whether foreign or domestic, that operates in the U.S.  The federal bank robbery statute also covers theft of anything over $1,000, and burglary or other felony committed against the bank.  Bank robbery is a felony with a 20-year maximum penalty, which becomes 25 years if the defendant commits an assault or uses a dangerous weapon or device.  Theft of more than $1,000 in currency or other items from a bank carries a 10-year maximum penalty.

Typically, when we think of bank robbery we think of a masked person pointing a gun at the teller, but a large number of bank robberies are committed without weapons.  Simply relaying a verbal threat to a teller or even passing a threatening note with a demand for money is enough of a show of force to trigger robbery charges.  This is the same under both federal law and the laws of Maryland.  The government is never required to prove the defendant was able to carry out any of the threats in a robbery case.  All that is required is for the defendant to place a victim in fear of his or her safety.  If a weapon is brandished or used the defendant will face a significantly higher punishment under the sentencing guidelines, and if a firearm is present mandatory minimum sentences will be in play under federal law and Maryland state law.

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gelcap-300x169A 41-year old Baltimore man recently pled guilty to participating in a drug distribution conspiracy, and he now faces more than a decade in federal prison for his actions.  Based on a recent press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office the defendant is looking at 12.5 years after the government and the defense agreed that a 150-month sentence would be appropriate.  The presiding judge in the Baltimore City federal courthouse will have final say over the sentence, but typically when both sides are in agreement the judge will go along as well.  It is unclear whether the parties entered into a binding agreement under Rule 11(c), but either way the judge would maintain discretion to approve or reject the plea based upon a final calculation of the sentencing guidelines and a review of the presentence report.

According to facts laid out in the plea agreement the defendant participated in a drug trafficking organization or DTO from at least September of 2018 until June of 2019 in Baltimore City.  The defendant also admitted to maintaining a stash house in Baltimore where heroin and crack cocaine were processed and stored.  Law enforcement agencies including the ATF, FBI and the Baltimore Police all participated in the investigation, which ultimately yielded a search warrant for the stash house.  The Anne Arundel County Police also participated to some degree in the case due to the cross proximity of the stash house to Anne Arundel County. Police seized over 200 grams of crack cocaine from the house, but it does not appear that any money or firearms were seized.  It is also not clear whether there were other individuals that were charged along with this defendant, but there had to have been other suspects in order for the government to establish sufficient evidence of a conspiracy.  Conspiracy charges are common in federal court, as it is often easier for the government to prove that a defendant planned and prepared to commit an illegal act as opposed to catching him or her in the act.  Under Maryland state law conspiracy is not a separate enumerated crime, but rather a common law misdemeanor that may be charged in almost any criminal case.

It certainly appears that an agreed upon sentence of 12.5 years for a non-violent drug offense involving far less than 1 kilogram of cocaine and no firearms or weapons would be excessive.  The agreement is a little easier to comprehend when factoring in the defendant’s prior record though.  According to Maryland casesearch, the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder back in 1999 and then narcotics distribution and possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime in 2011.  He received 12 years in each of these cases.  The first-degree murder case was resolved by a plea agreement to 12 years in prison, though he also received 12 years for handgun use in a crime in the same case.  These counts could have been run consecutive for a total of 24 years though it is not completely clear.  Either way the defendant has spent most of his adult life in prison, and now will spend another decade behind bars.  Regardless of his prior record, a 12 plus year sentence for mid-level drug trafficking seems unjust, and we can only hope that lawmakers continue to engage in criminal justice reform that reduces a defendant’s exposure in non-violent cases.

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heroindeal-300x157Howard County is known for having one of the best school systems in the state and a relatively low crime rate, so it undoubtedly was surprising when federal agents showed up in force to execute a search warrant of a home in a quiet Ellicott City neighborhood.   The agents were targeting a 31-year old suspect and looking for evidence of drug distribution, and they allegedly found a what they were looking for when the performed the search back in 2016.  According to evidence presented at trial, law enforcement entered the residence as the defendant was in the kitchen with numerous bags of crack cocaine, powder cocaine, digital scales, measuring cups used in the production of crack and two loaded .45 caliber handguns.  During the course of the search, law enforcement officers then found over 70 grams each of cocaine and crack, and close to $10,000 in cash.  Agents also seized two semi-automatic rifles with large capacity magazines and 200 rounds of ammunition.  The defendant was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime among other felony charges.  Rather than enter a plea of guilty, the defendant elected to roll the dice and go to trial, but it appears from the verdict that he may not have made the best decision.

After a four-day jury trial at the Baltimore City federal courthouse that was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the defendant was ultimately found guilty for possession with intent to distribute more than 28 grams of cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  The first two convictions carry 5-year mandatory prison sentences that will be imposed consecutively.  Maryland state law and federal law both provide mandatory five-year sentences for possession of large amounts of cocaine, and both also have mandatory sentences for possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime.  The defendant will likely be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison and since there is no parole in federal criminal cases he may not be released until at least 2026.  Even if the case was charged in state court the defendant would not have been parole eligible based on the mandatory minimum sentences that must be imposed by the judge. According to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Howard County and Prince George’s County Police Departments helped the FBI work up this case as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods, which was developed to encourage collaboration between federal and state law enforcement agencies.

Under Maryland law there is no specific offense entitled drug trafficking like there is in Florida, but the term is used whenever a defendant is charged with possession or distribution of a large amount of cocaine, heroin, marijuana or other drug.  Violations of these offenses trigger mandatory prison sentences, but the federal laws can be stricter than Maryland laws when it comes to amounts.  Federal law provides a minimum mandatory penalty for possession of a much lower amount of cocaine base (28 grams) compared to Maryland law (448 grams).  In contrast, Maryland law has a lower threshold for heroin (28 grams) than federal law (100 grams).  Maryland state law and federal law both provide the same mandatory penalty for firearm possession during a drug crime, but many times this offense is wrongly charged by state law enforcement.  The law requires the State to prove a nexus between the drugs and the guns, so if a gun is locked away in a person’s basement it may not be in any way related to the drugs.  A criminal defense lawyer will be able to look at the case in detail to determine what defenses may be available in a drug trafficking case.

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technology-2500010__480-300x200The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently announced that a 29-year old Baltimore County man has pled guilty to two felony charges in federal court, which stemmed from his use of a fake Secret Service badge.  According to facts presented in the plea agreement the Middle River resident was pulled over in Baltimore City by an MTA Police Officer for driving on a suspended license.  Upon being approached by the uniformed officer the defendant removed a law enforcement badge from his pocket and placed it in his lap, and then told the officer that he was a United States Secret Service Agent.  Rather than give him a pass and send him on his way, the officer become more suspicious of the defendant’s behavior, likely in part because he detected an odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle.  The driver was arrested and taken to the police station where he continued to maintain that he was a Secret Service Agent.  Police contacted the Secret Service, who unsurprisingly had no record of the man being employed in their agency or any other federal law enforcement agency.  Actual Secret Service agents made the trip to the police station to interview the defendant, who apparently admitted that the badge was fake.

Maryland Transportation Police originally charged the defendant with DUI and driving on a suspended license as well as multiple criminal violations.  The criminal charges included obstructing and hindering, resisting arrest, false statement to a law enforcement officer and impersonating an officer under public safety code section 3-502.  All of these charges were ultimately dismissed in the Baltimore City District Court, as the feds decided to prosecute the man for more serious offenses.  Further investigation into the defendant revealed that in addition to using the fake law enforcement badge to attempt to avoid being arrested, he had also posed as a federal agent on several other occasions to defraud at least 8 civilians from early 2017 to early 2019.  The plea agreement described numerous incidents where the defendant would use his fake law enforcement status to get free food and parking.  He also used his fake credentials to gain entry into people’s homes where he would steal their bank checks and credit cards and then go on spending sprees.  The total losses to the victims was more than $20,000.

The Baltimore County man is currently scheduled for sentencing in November, where he faces us to 10 years in prison for access device fraud under 18 U.S. Code section 1029.  He also faces a 2-year mandatory prison sentence for aggravated identity fraud, which will run consecutively to any sentence he receives on the access device fraud charge.  It will not be the first lengthy jail sentence for the defendant, as he was sentenced to 6 months in the Baltimore County Detention Center for unlawful taking of a motor vehicle in April of 2019.  The Blog will continue to follow this case and may post a follow up article in November after the sentencing hearing.  It is rare for a person to be charged in federal court for impersonating an officer, but this case clearly had much more going on than just a futile attempt to avoid a traffic citation.

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Medical-Cannabis-300x200Earlier this year a former state lawmaker entered a guilty plea in the Baltimore federal courthouse for accepting bribes and committing wire fraud while in office, and the ex-delegate recently learned that her fate would include a prison sentence.  The defendant was a well-known lawmaker who had been in office since January of 2007, and served right up until the charges were unsealed and made available to the public roughly 7 months ago.  She had been instrumental in making medical marijuana a reality in Maryland, and actually sponsored the original bill.  In fact, the state’s medical marijuana program is named after the defendant’s mother, who never had access to medical marijuana to help ease the effects of her cancer.  According to evidence obtained by law enforcement, the former delegate accepted multiple bribes related to awarding lucrative licenses to grow and dispense medical marijuana.  In total the government presented evidence that the former lawmaker accepted 5 bribes in 2018 and 2019, which totaled approximately $34,000.  The first bribe was for $3,000 in exchange for a vote to increase the number of grower licenses from 15 to 22.  This bribe was reportedly paid by an agent of an out-of-state company that was seeking to angle its way into the Maryland medical marijuana market.  She also took money to help a Maryland company secure its growing license and another company to secure a license to dispense medical marijuana.  A Baltimore based business man has also pled guilty for offering a bribe to the former lawmaker, and he is awaiting sentencing in federal court.

The defendant’s lawyer argued that the 69-year old Democrat from Baltimore did not deserve a prison sentence, and that a felony conviction combined with home detention and probation would be a sufficient sentence.  The defense argued that the defendant had otherwise lived a crime free and exemplary life, and fell on hard times after the death of her husband.  The government countered by urging the judge to impose a 3-year prison sentence, and cited similar cases of public corruption where 3 or more years was imposed.  After taking both sides into account the Baltimore federal judge ultimately settled on a two-year prison sentence followed by 3 years of supervised release.  The judge explained the sentence by citing the multiple separate criminal acts, and reiterated that this was not a one-time lapse in judgement but a well-though out course of criminal conduct.  In addition to the medical marijuana bribes, the former delegate also accepted $20,000 in exchange for drafting a bill to establish additional liquor licenses, and another $5,000 to file a bill that lowered the age required for a person to become medical director of a state opioid addiction clinic.  The judge is allowing the defendant to turn herself in at a later date in September, and may consider pushing the report date further out based on the current COVID-19 situation.

It is no surprise that the medical marijuana program produced this level of corruption from a veteran lawmaker, and there are almost certainly more instances of foul play going on throughout the state related to the lucrative medical marijuana business.  The setup of the program was a breeding ground for public corruption and payoffs due to the limited number of licenses being issued and the amount of money at stake for those who received them.  Anytime government officials have control over the ability for private citizens and business to make millions of dollars there is going to be corruption, and the state would have been much better served to allow all qualified applicants to obtain licenses.  There is no logical reason in preventing qualified applicants from engaging in the medical marijuana business, and it’s a real shame that arbitrary limits were created.  The Blog will continue to follow all future instances of public corruption, and we will pay special attention to any cases related to medical and recreational marijuana.  Benjamin Herbst is a Florida and Maryland criminal defense lawyer who handles cases in state and federal court.  Benjamin specializes in defending white collar crimes such as bribery, fraud, and misconduct in office, and is available anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598.  He handles cases in all Maryland jurisdictions including Montgomery County, Baltimore City and County, Prince George’s County, the Eastern Shore, Western Maryland and Anne Arundel County.  Benjamin is also license in Florida and accepts cases in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County.

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