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Ravenell will not testify as racketeering trial nears closing arguments

The decision by attorney Kenneth W. Ravenell not to testify brings to an end the evidentiary part of his federal trial. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Jurors will have two weeks’ worth of dense testimony to weigh when they begin deliberating in Kenneth W. Ravenell’s federal racketeering trial later this week.

They will not, however, have heard from Ravenell himself. The celebrated Baltimore defense lawyer said Tuesday he will not testify, bringing an abrupt end to the evidence phase of the trial.

Jurors were released for the day early Tuesday and will return Wednesday morning for jury instructions and closing arguments.

Ravenell faces charges that include racketeering, drug and money laundering conspiracy. Also on trial are Joshua R. Treem, a defense lawyer who initially represented Ravenell during the federal investigation, and Sean F. Gordon, a private investigator who had worked with Ravenell.

The government alleges that Ravenell was a longtime consigliere for Richard Byrd, a drug trafficker who operated a cross-country marijuana distribution ring. Byrd, who was the prosecution’s star witness, testified that he paid Ravenell millions of dollars in drug proceeds over several years in exchange for help evading law enforcement and laundering money.

Ravenell’s defense team has argued that Byrd is lying to win a reduction in his 26-year federal prison sentence, and that prosecutors failed to turn up any sign of the millions of dollars in cash that Byrd allegedly paid Ravenell.

Treem and Gordon face charges related to their efforts to defend Ravenell during the federal investigation, which burst into public view in 2014, when agents raided Ravenell’s law firm at the time, Murphy, Falcon & Murphy.

The government accuses Treem and Gordon of interviewing Byrd at an Arizona jail in 2017 in an effort to “take him off the board,” or render his testimony useless if prosecutors called him during the case against Ravenell.

During that meeting, Byrd at first largely agreed with a list of exculpatory statements about Ravenell that Treem had prepared. But Byrd later changed his story and said that Ravenell knew details of the drug trafficking organization.

Treem took the witness stand for most of the day Monday during testimony that at times turned contentious. He and Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise traded barbs over several inaccuracies that appeared in a pair of documents that Treem created after his interview with Byrd.

Treem portrayed the inaccuracies as inadvertent and made as part of a good-faith effort to represent Ravenell. He said he had no obligation to include incriminating information in the documents.

The documents are an affidavit prepared after the interview and, later, a letter sent to U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett once Treem became concerned that Byrd was threatening to cooperate with prosecutors if Ravenell did not help Byrd recover money.

Wise pushed Treem on the fact that he did not include Byrd’s statements that Ravenell knew about the drug trafficking operation.

You created a version of events that didn’t happen, isn’t that right?” Wise asked. 

He also questioned Treem’s decision to write a letter to Bennett when he became concerned about the possibility of extortion.

“You didn’t have to send this letter at all,” Wise said. “You took it upon yourself to do this. … You also could have just called the police if you thought someone was actually extorting you.”

Treem testified that he was hesitant to tell the government about Byrd’s “shakedown” in case it gave federal prosecutors leverage to turn Byrd against Ravenell. He also acknowledged several factual errors in the affidavit and the letter but said they were made unintentionally.

“I’ve conceded the inaccuracies,” Treem said. “The affidavit was not intended to do anything other than memorialize what benefited my client.”