A Baltimore man has been indicted on a charge of killing a federal witness - a crime that carries a potential death sentence - after a leaked FBI report tipped him off that the victim was cooperating with investigators.
An indictment unsealed Friday charges Antonio R. Hall, 30, with murder in the death of Kareem K. Guest, who died in a hail of gunfire near his south Baltimore home in September 2009. Hall killed Guest in retaliation for the victim's cooperation with the FBI and Baltimore police, according to the indictment.
Guest had been giving authorities information about drug trafficking in Westport, a rundown south Baltimore neighborhood. He was killed after the neighborhood was flooded with copies of the document detailing his FBI interview, according to an indictment in a related case.
The document had been turned over to a defense attorney as part of the discovery process in a separate case involving drug dealing in Westport, prosecutors said. Defense attorneys aren't supposed to share such documents with their clients because of the potential risk to witness safety, but an attorney did so in this case, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said.
The attorney's disclosure of the document remains under investigation, he said.
"If a defense attorney disclosed a document with the intent to cause someone harm, that would clearly be a federal crime, but I'm not going to comment on whether that's what happened in this case," Rosenstein said.
Since Guest was outed as an informant, prosecutors have more frequently sought court orders that bar defense attorneys from showing such documents to their clients, Rosenstein said.
Witness intimidation is a persistent problem in Baltimore, home to an infamous underground DVD called "Stop Snitching." The arrest of Hall was a top priority for law enforcement, Rosenstein said.
Hall's attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment. He had an initial appearance in federal court Friday and was detained pending a hearing next week.
Attorney General Eric Holder will decide whether to seek the death penalty after a recommendation from Rosenstein's office. Prosecutors have not yet made their recommendation and will not disclose it when they do, Rosenstein said.
His office sought the death penalty last year for Patrick A. Byers Jr., a Baltimore man who orchestrated the death of a witness from jail, using a contraband cell phone. Jurors couldn't agree on a death sentence for Byers, who was sentenced to life without parole.
In addition to Hall, Raine Z. Curtis is charged with lying to a grand jury and obstructing justice during the investigation into Guest's death. The leak of Guest's FBI interview was first disclosed by prosecutors when Curtis' indictment was unsealed in June.