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Baltimore defense lawyers to go on trial next week in racketeering, obstruction case

Attorney for the Anton Black family, Ken Ravenell, with friends and family of Anton Black behind him, speaks during a press conference Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Baltimore. Ravenell goes on trial beginning Monday on federal charges that include racketeering and money laundering conspiracy. (AP File Photo/Gail Burton)

A closely watched criminal case in Baltimore’s legal community is set to go to trial starting Monday in federal court.

Prominent Baltimore defense attorney Kenneth W. Ravenell will ask a jury to weigh charges, including racketeering, drug and money laundering conspiracy, in a proceeding that could last for more than a month.

Also charged in the case are Joshua R. Treem, another well-known attorney in Baltimore legal circles who originally represented Ravenell, and Sean F. Gordon, a private investigator.

The Dec. 6 trial will shine a spotlight on a case that caused shockwaves when it was filed but has remained secretive during pretrial proceedings. Dozens of documents have been filed under seal, making it difficult for observers to follow the contours of the case.

A 2019 federal indictment accused Ravenell of receiving payments from a drug trafficker client and his associates in exchange for laundering money and for giving instructions on how to evade law enforcement, prosecutors said.

The indictment also alleged that Ravenell used his law firm’s bank accounts to receive drug payments and to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars. Charging documents also claimed that Ravenell obtained information about arrested members of the drug trafficking operation, including whether they were cooperating with law enforcement, and attempted to influence their testimony.

Ravenell, of Ravenell Law, was a partner at Murphy, Falcon & Murphy during the years referenced in the indictment, 2009 to 2014. He has continued to practice law since being indicted.

Treem represented Ravenell between 2016 and 2019 amid the investigation that led to the indictment. Under an indictment filed in late 2020, Treem and Gordon were accused of traveling to a jail in Phoenix, Arizona, in September 2017 to meet with a detainee who was a potential witness in the federal investigation of Ravenell. The two men are accused of having the witness, identified in court records as R.B., sign a false document that Ravenell had prepared as an alibi.

The case raised a number of complex legal issues as prosecutors pursued charges against fellow lawyers.

Federal investigators took the unusual step of raiding multiple law firms in search of evidence as they pursued the case, a move that elicited questions about how to protect privileged communications with the firms’ clients.

The defendants have argued that the prosecution wrongly cast the robust defense of their clients as criminal activity. They also objected to federal prosecutors’ secret recording of a meeting between Treem and the witness he interviewed as he prepared Ravenell’s defense — whom prosecutors say Treem coached to sign a false document.

Lucius Outlaw, Ravenell’s lead defense lawyer, did not respond to a phone message requesting comment.

Robert Trout, who is representing Treem, declined to comment. Rebecca LeGrand, Gordon’s defense lawyer, also did not respond to a phone message.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise is handling the case, along with a team of federal prosecutors.

Liam O’Grady, a senior U.S. District Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia, is presiding over the case.

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