A Maryland Corrections Officer, Jennifer Owens, has pleaded guilty to being involved in a prison racketeering scheme to smuggle drugs and other contraband into the Baltimore City Detention Center for a gang leader who fathered two children with her.  When the scandal was uncovered, the prison system was rocked by the arrest of 13 corrections officers who were indicted for helping Tavon White, the leader of the Black Guerrilla Family, which enabled him to create a thriving drug enterprise.  Owens is the first guard to enter a plea of guilty.  Most of the other officers have pleaded not guilty.  Defense attorneys for several officers have expressed interest in plea agreements.  Owens, now on supervised release, had initially been charged with racketeering, drug-trafficking, and money-laundering, but as part of the deal with prosecutors only pleaded guilty to racketeering.  That crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.  Owen’s ultimate sentence will depend upon a variety of factors, according to the judge Ellen Hollander.  The fact that the crime took place in a prison and that Owens was a state corrections employee will play a part and could warrant a harsher punishment, according to Judge Hollander.  Although, because of the guilty plea, Hollander said, that Owens could receive mercy.  Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 24th, so that the defense can investigate mitigating factors.

In a summary of undisputed facts, the record states that Owens smuggled Percocet pills, suboxone strips, tobacco, and marijuana into the jail and moved contraband inside, as did many other officers.  White also pleaded guilty to racketeering and drug trafficking.

“The investigation continues,” Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said, “and we anticipate that there will be additional defendants…”

The jail has been conducting a top-down review and so far has fired one administrator, Shavella Miles, the head of security.  The cooperation of corrections officers was critical to the virtual takeover of the jail by White, who had been incarcerated there since 2009 awaiting trial. To secure their help, White used money and sex.  The indicted female officers were paid to smuggle in drugs, cellphones and other contraband. Four, including Owens, had sexual relationships with White and bore him children, prosecutors allege. White also gave Owens a diamond ring and access to two Mercedes-Benzes.

Owens had been a corrections officer for about 5 years.  She allegedly said in a wiretapped conversation, “I can accept that I [made a mistake]. I know I did, but I did that [stuff] cuz I wanted to. I don’t regret it.


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