By Ian Duncan, The Baltimore Sun
9:53 PM EDT, April 25, 2013
One of the corrections officers accused this week of helping Black Guerrilla Family members smuggle drugs into a Baltimore jail was flagged seven years ago for alleged gang ties.
A state investigator raised concerns in 2006 that Antonia Allison might have been linked to the Bloods. Federal prosecutors this week accused Allison of working with a BGF member who was an inmate at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
The fact that Allison continued to work at the jail after the investigator's report raised new questions as the state continues to grapple with the corruption scandal at the troubled state institution.
Allison is one of 13 officers charged in the indictment; four others were allegedly impregnated by Tavon White, the gang member who authorities say controlled the jail. Twelve others, including inmates and alleged gang members outside the jail, were also charged.
The accusations prompted lawmakers to call a rare out-of-session hearing on the state's prison system. Members of the House Judiciary Committee will hold the meeting May 8 to ask how the alleged corruption developed.
Del. Luiz R. S. Simmons said allegations against corrections officers need to be investigated "seriously."
"Due process for individuals who are charged with a crime is one thing, but with respect to individuals who ... are in the prison system, there ought to be a different set of standards," said Simmons, a Montgomery County Democrat, who sits on the Judiciary Committee. "And these standards ought to be vigorously enforced."
The results of the 2006 investigation in which Allison was flagged remain unclear. She stayed on the job until she was suspended without pay this week. There was no attorney listed for her in court records, and no one came to the door Thursday at the West Baltimore rowhouse identified by the FBI as her address.
Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said he could not discuss the accusations against Allison.
But he said workers at the jail are entitled to fair treatment, even when accused of wrongdoing.
"The personnel disciplinary process is a difficult one, and there are many good reasons for that," he said.
Federal law enforcement officials have targeted the Black Guerrilla Family's operations inside Maryland prisons in the past. In a long-running investigation that concluded in 2009, they uncovered a scheme in which gang members used corrections employees to smuggle heroin into other corrections facilities.
Department officials said this week that they requested the current federal investigation at the jail and have supported other federal attempts to uncover corruption.
The intelligence report in which Allison was named was compiled in 2006 and became public in a civil case two years later. She was accused of holding open an inmate's cell door while he was assaulted.
In the report, Lt. Santiago Morales, then the head of intelligence at the jail, also identified 11 other corrections officers he believed were tied to gangs.
Officials said this week that five of the people on Morales' list still work for the department. None of the others were included in this week's indictment.
Allison was sued by Tashma McFadden, a former inmate at the detention center. McFadden alleged in a federal complaint that Allison opened his cell door and let about nine people in to beat and stab him, in retaliation for a "prior verbal dispute."
Allison, who was represented in the case by the Maryland attorney general's office, denied the allegations in a court filing, and the sides settled the case in 2010.
Allison denied the allegations but agreed to pay McFadden $5,000, according to court records.
McFadden, now out of prison, said Thursday that he had a simple tip for jail authorities hoping to avoid corruption.
"They've just got to do better screening when they do their hiring from now on," he said.
In the federal indictment unsealed this week, Allison is accused of smuggling marijuana and prescription medications into the jail for White, the alleged gang leader.
"You know they gonna sell fast," Allison allegedly said in a wiretapped conversation summarized in a search warrant affidavit.
Archer Blackwell, a representative of AFSCME Council 67, which serves officers at the detention center, said the corrections department is too slow to take on corrupt officers, leaving others feeling exposed.
"Sometimes the officers know this stuff is going on and they want to see results, to move these people out of the workplace," he said.
But instead, he said, the department waits in the hopes of unveiling "big blast" cases.
Baltimore Sun reporter Erin Cox contributed to this story.
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