Two men and one juvenile were arrested Tuesday on handgun and drug charges after a traffic stop allegedly found two in possession of revolvers and one in possession of over 10 grams of marijuana.
A statement of probable cause written by Maryland State Police Trooper Christopher Ditoto alleges that the group was stopped for a seat belt violation on Tuesday morning, and that Ditoto observed Deamonte A. Lacey, 20, who was sitting in the back seat, removing a backpack and reaching in. Ditoto also “detected the strong odor of raw marijuana” at the stop, according to the statement.
The statement later alleges that a “silver Smith and Wesson .357 revolver loaded with five rounds of .357 ammunition” along with additional ammunition was found in Lacey’s backpack, and a loaded “silver Taurus .357 revolver with the serial number partially scratched off” was found in a backpack belonging to the minor, along with a small amount of suspected marijuana.
Keenan Anthony Berry, 23, who was allegedly driving the vehicle, was also charged with possessing over 10 grams of marijuana and possession of a dangerous substance with intent to distribute after a bag of marijuana was allegedly found under the driver’s seat, and Ditoto “estimated the weight of the marijuana belonging to Berry to be over 10 grams.” Ditoto also alleged that “$1,131 in various denominations of U.S. currency” was found on Berry, which he allegedly said was earned at his job at Walmart and “other odd jobs.”
At the group’s bond hearings on Wednesday, Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Caspar said in court that Lacey was “getting off to a terrible start” as an adult. She said that in addition to possessing the revolver while under 21, the serial number on the weapon revealed that it was reported stolen to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office.
Caspar requested that Lacey be held without bond for public safety reasons.
Edie Fortuna, a public defender representing Lacey for bond, said that he has no prior convictions prohibiting him from owning a firearm.
As the oldest child of a single mother, Lacey “has taken the position of patriarch of the family,” according to Fortuna, and “young people’s educations could be affected” by his detention.
“He just needs to be able to get back to his family,” Fortuna said.
St. Mary’s District Judge Christy Holt Chesser ordered that Lacey be held without bond, saying that she was “not comfortable with having him out.”
Caspar said that the 17-year-old who was arrested “had no business holding” a weapon, and also said that he “already had a crime of violence” as a juvenile.
“We are looking at an extremely dangerous situation here,” Caspar said.
The boy, Lacey’s younger brother, had spent one night in the St. Mary’s County Detention and Rehabilitation Center, where he is in juvenile custody. “When he is in the detention center he is basically in solitary confinement,” Fortuna said. She said that the boy has “limited interaction with the human race” while in the detention center.
Chesser ordered that the boy be held without bond in a juvenile detention center.
Latisha Lee Ann Connolly, the mother of both Lacey and the 17-year-old defendant, spoke in court, and said that she did not know the two had guns.
“They’re not just random, bad children,” Connolly said. “My kids are not bad kids.”
Connolly told the court that the brothers were “not going to hurt anybody,” and that “they were trying to defend themselves,” as they have been threatened recently.
Caspar, citing the statement of probable cause, said that Berry “did not stop immediately” when driving.
A court commissioner at the detention center evaluated Berry’s charges, which include possession of over 10 grams of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute and a drug paraphernalia, as more dangerous than standard.
“There is no more danger [with these charges] than a normal possession with intent to distribute,” Fortuna said. She also said that Berry “made no statement, no indication that he knew about the handguns.”
Chesser released Berry on grounds that he would attend substance abuse counseling and avoid controlled substances.
Berry will go to court for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 8, while Lacey and his brother will face a trial on Oct. 31.