- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 12, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) Former state Sen. Michael Mitchell is playing a part in the racketeering trial of five men accused of using bars and other businesses as fronts for a violent drug ring, an attorney said.
Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed Mr. Mitchell to testify in the trial, which began Tuesday. Government lawyers have also mentioned another prominent Baltimore name: former heavyweight boxing champion Hasim Rahman, who prosecutors said was a partner with one of the accused ringleaders in a downtown nightclub.
Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Rahman have not been charged, and it is not clear how they will figure in the federal trial. Mr. Rahman has denied that he was an owner of the now-closed Emineo nightclub.
Defense attorney Richard Bittner, who represents lead defendant James Gross Sr., said jurors could hear about Mr. Mitchell's business dealings with the defendants and other witnesses.
"I think you'll find that Michael Mitchell's name is going to weave throughout this case," Mr. Bittner said.
During a hearing, Mr. Bittner sought assurances that prosecutors wouldn't tell jurors of a series of crimes possibly connected to the defendants, including what Mr. Bittner described as "the murder of Michael Mitchell's former partner in a bar in West Baltimore."
Martin "Chicken" Young, a potential government witness with business ties to Mr. Mitchell, has told investigators that Gross and co-defendant Louis Colvin were involved in the 1998 killing of Stepney Jones. Mr. Jones was killed near his Woodlawn home after leaving the Short Stop Bar & Lounge, which Mr. Jones managed and that records show Mr. Mitchell operated.
Mr. Bittner said Gross denies any involvement in Mr. Jones' death. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Manuelian said the killing won't come up in the current case.
Federal authorities have linked a long list of other crimes to the group they say was led by Gross and Colvin, two convicted heroin dealers.
In opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Harding described a crime ring that didn't hesitate to tamper with witnesses or attempt murder. He said the ring was built on a lucrative West Baltimore cocaine and heroin business run chiefly by James Gross Jr., who also has been charged in the case.
One of the government's key witnesses is expected to be Colvin, who pleaded guilty in September to racketeering and agreed to cooperate.
In opening statements, defense attorneys cast Colvin as the true criminal who cut a deal to save himself.
Records show that Colvin and the elder Gross had planned to open Emineo under the name of Intellects in early 2001. But after the elder Gross was jailed on charges of raping a 12-year-old Baltimore girl, Colvin opened the club as Emineo under what prosecutors described Tuesday as a partnership with Mr. Rahman.
In the spring Mr. Rahman's managers described the boxer as a part-owner of the club. But in June, after the club's liquor license was suspended, Mr. Rahman said he wasn't an owner but had been paid for the use of his name to promote the bar.

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