Government withdraws filing that claimed defense firms profited from Ravenell money laundering

Madeleine O'Neill//May 24, 2023

Kenneth W. Ravenell has asked Maryland's Court of Appeals to let him continue practicing law while he challenges his conviction. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Government withdraws filing that claimed defense firms profited from Ravenell money laundering

By Madeleine O'Neill

//May 24, 2023

Federal prosecutors have withdrawn an explosive court filing that claimed numerous criminal defense firms and lawyers profited from a money laundering scheme involving convicted Baltimore defense attorney Kenneth W. Ravenell.

In an unusual move, the government also reversed its position that the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers should not be allowed to file an amicus brief in support of Ravenell’s still-pending appeal.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment Wednesday on the withdrawal, which came just two days after the initial filing.

Brandon Moore, who heads the office’s appellate division, also entered his appearance in the case Tuesday afternoon.

The original filing objected to the NACDL, one of the nation’s top organizations for criminal defense lawyers, submitting an amicus brief as Ravenell asked the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider throwing out his money laundering conviction.

In particular, the government claimed that the Philadelphia-based law firm representing the NACDL, Blank Rome LLP, had “directly profited” from Ravenell’s money laundering scheme and so should not be allowed to participate in the appeal.

“To launder money, Ravenell wired drug proceeds to law firms, including Blank Rome,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise wrote in the filing. “… Blank Rome and numerous other criminal defense firms and lawyers literally profited from the money laundering conspiracy that (Ravenell) perpetuated.”

The startling allegations came in response to what would normally be a fairly uncontroversial request to join the case as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court.

Ravenell is seeking to have his money laundering conviction overturned. A federal jury found him guilty of one count of money laundering in December 2021, after federal prosecutors presented evidence that Ravenell helped “wash” $2 million in drug money for a former criminal defense client.

A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit affirmed the conviction last month and rejected Ravenell’s claim that jurors should been instructed to consider the five-year statute of limitations for money laundering.

Ravenell is now asking the full 4th Circuit to hear his appeal. He was sentenced in June 2022 to four years and nine months in federal prison but has yet to begin the sentence for reasons that remain unclear.

Wise, the prosecutor who submitted government’s first response, is not listed on the government’s new filing. He has faced criticism for his prosecution of Joshua Treem, who was originally Ravenell’s defense attorney. Treem was accused of meeting with a key prosecution witness in an effort to take him “off the board,” or render him useless to the government by locking him into a story that favored Ravenell.

Treem said he was doing his job as a defense attorney by meeting with the witness and testing the government’s evidence. He was acquitted of all charges at the same trial as Ravenell.


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