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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Defeating Justice: Gangs Aggressively Enforcing Code of Silence

Criminal gangs are using aggressive new tactics to intimidate witnesses and ruin the criminal justice system. The New York Times reported:

BOSTON, Jan. 15 - In Boston, a witness to a shooting by a member of a street gang recently found copies of his grand jury testimony taped to all the doors in the housing project where he lives.

In Baltimore, Rickey Prince, a 17-year-old who witnessed a gang murder and agreed to testify against the killer, was shot in the back of the head a few days after a prosecutor read Mr. Prince's name aloud in a packed courtroom.

And in each city, CD's and DVD's titled "Stop Snitching" have surfaced, naming some people street gangs suspect of being witnesses against them and warning that those who cooperate with the police will be killed. To underscore its message, the Baltimore DVD shows what appears to be three dead bodies on its back cover above the words "snitch prevention."

These are only a few examples of what the police, prosecutors and judges say is a growing national problem of witness intimidation by youth gangs that in some cities is jeopardizing the legal system and that bears striking similarities to the way organized crime has often silenced witnesses.

"Witness intimidation has become so pervasive that it is ruining the public's faith in the criminal justice system to protect them," said Judge John M. Glynn of Baltimore City Circuit Court. "We are not much better off than the legal system in Mexico or Colombia or some other sad places."

The "Stop Snitching" DVD has some slick editing that disturbs law enforcement professionals:
Last month, the Baltimore police found that a two-hour DVD titled "Stop Snitching" was being sold on the street. It features young men smoking marijuana, flashing wads of $100 bills, waving guns and making violent threats, some against specific witnesses. "He's a rat, a snitch," one man sings, continuing with obscenities. "He's dead because I don't believe he's from the 'hood."...

The DVD has drawn particular attention because of the (six minute) appearance on it of Carmelo Anthony, 20, a National Basketball Association star with the Denver Nuggets who grew up in Baltimore. Mr. Anthony does not make any threats in the DVD.

Calvin Andrews, Mr. Anthony's agent, said, "He was not aware a DVD was being produced. He was just hanging out with some guys from the neighborhood who had a video camera." Mr. Andrews added of Mr. Anthony: "He doesn't condone the message about intimidation."

The DVD was made by Rodney Bethea, a 31-year-old West Baltimore barber, fashion designer and video maker. He says the video merely documents the harsh reality of life in West Baltimore. The DVD is currently being offered for sale on Baltimore's Craig's List:
STOP SNITCHING dvd feat. Carmelo Anthony - $30

You've read all about it in The Sun, seen it on ESPN, now see for yourself. Baltimore like you've never seen it as the underworld confronts "snitches." See 'Melo's boyhood home and you determine whether he really did anything wrong. Very difficult to obtain and only money orders will be accepted. DVD contains strong language with no nudity or violence.

Guns and Jeers Used by Gangs to Buy Silence [The New York Times, Jan. 16, 2005]
'Snitching' video betrays a muddled criminal mentality [by Gregory Kane at BaltimoreSun.com, Dec. 8, 2004, with quicktime video chip]
‘Stop snitching’ DVD puts homegrown NBA star in verbal crossfire [blackamericaweb.com, Dec. 6, 2004]
Reality bites: Stop Snitching producer says Carmelo DVD reflects Baltimore streets [Sports Illustrated, Dec. 29, 2004]

related:
ANNOUNCEMENT OF VICTIM/WITNESS SUPPORT STRATEGY [Suffolk MA District Attorney]
N.B.A. Star Is Shown in an Intimidation Video [NY Times, Jan. 16, 2005]
Carmelo Anthony Under Fire For DVD Comments [AllHipHop.com]
A Breakdown of Carmelo Anthony's 'Stop Snitching' Video

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