- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — Basketball star Carmelo Anthony might have provided celebrity appeal in “Stop Snitching,” a digital video disc for sale on the streets of Baltimore.

But law-enforcement officials told the Baltimore Sun that the profanity-laced, witness-intimidation production was aimed at Tyree Stewart, a man who once ran a $50 million drug ring in West Baltimore and is now in prison and cooperating with investigators.

Stewart is the target of many of the anti-witness rants on the recently released DVD — the seventh “Skinny Suge” production to hit the market, said lawyers and law-enforcement officials.

They say Stewart is thought to have helped federal authorities indict Solothal Thomas, or “Itchy Man,” who police say may have been one of the most violent “enforcers” in the city.

Mr. Thomas has been acquitted of two murder and 12 attempted-murder charges in state court. But several months ago, he was indicted on federal conspiracy charges that could carry the death penalty.

“They’re saying that Solothal Thomas and his brother did a murder-for-hire for Stewart’s drug organization,” Mr. Thomas’ defense attorney Arcangelo M. Tuminelli told the Sun.

To understand the intrigue, one has to go back to the late 1990s, when Stewart — also known as “Black” and “Blickie” — ran one of the city’s largest, and most profitable, marijuana rings.

He sold “Arizona” marijuana that he obtained from suppliers in New York, prosecutors said — a high-quality form of the drug that sold in Baltimore for about $2,000 a pound. At “shops” throughout the West Side, workers packaged the drugs for retail sale managed by Stewart’s “lieutenants.” Stewart also sold wholesale, prosecutors said. Authorities said Stewart protected his territory. His enforcers intimidated potential rivals and protected his turf with violence — including murder, prosecutors said.

In court papers, prosecutors say Stewart paid $10,000 for the 2002 killing of 21-year-old Terry Cheeks — retaliation for a killing of one of Stewart’s associates. Stewart also used Mr. Thomas as an “enforcer,” they said.

But by the early part of this decade, authorities were aware of Stewart and his operation. Informants had tipped off detectives, who watched drug transactions during surveillance operations at some of Stewart’s shops, according to court papers.

In March 2003, investigators installed a closed-circuit TV camera and an audio interception device in the kitchen and living room of the shop at 1809 W. Lanvale St. They also started monitoring Stewart’s cell phones.

Over the ensuing months, investigators gathered evidence against the organization — including Stewart’s conversations about countersurveillance techniques. Authorities called it Operation Arizona.

In August 2003, a federal grand jury indicted Stewart and 31 co-defendants for their reported involvement in the drug-trafficking enterprise. Agents also seized more than $90,000, handguns and four luxury vehicles — including Stewart’s $100,000 Mercedes-Benz CL.

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