By Sarah Brumfield
BALTIMORE — An actress who played a Baltimore drug gang assassin in HBO’s “The Wire” pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to distribute heroin, caught by a wiretap in a joint federal-state drug probe of an alleged drug gang.
Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, 31, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin, a day before her trial was set to begin. Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill accepted the plea, suspending a seven-year sentence with credit for time served and ordering three years of supervised probation with provisions for out-of-state travel for work.
The plea allows Pearson to move on with her acting career, instead of spending more than a year with charges hanging over her, attorney Benjamin C. Sutley said outside the courthouse.
“I can’t say she would have been found not guilty,” Sutley said. But Pearson interrupted, saying “I would have been found not guilty.”
Pearson was one of 64 people charged in March in “Operation Usual Suspects.” The federal indictment states that since 2008, members of the conspiracy bought heroin from New York and marijuana from California and sold the drugs on the streets of Baltimore. As part of the conspiracy, the indictment alleges, members discussed how those who failed to perform required tasks were dealt with violently.
Pearson was caught on a wiretap conspiring with Shawn Johnson and Jeff Gibbs, who bought heroin in bulk from New York and distributed the drugs in Baltimore, according to a statement of charges read aloud in court by prosecutor Rebecca Finn. Johnson paid Pearson to store drugs and money, including drug proceeds, at her apartment in the city, Finn said.
When another member of the alleged conspiracy was kidnapped by rival dealers, Johnson told him to go to Pearson’s apartment to get money pay a ransom, Finn said. Police interrupted the abduction outside Pearson’s apartment and found heroin in the abducted man’s car, she said. Informants also told investigators that Pearson occasionally sold heroin for Johnson, Finn said.
Some of the people involved in the wider case helped take care of Pearson when she was a teen, but she has now “learned a valuable lesson about how some loyalties you keep and others drag you down,” Sutley said.
Pearson said she knows everyone in Baltimore. Asked how she’ll avoid falling into the same situation in the future, Pearson said, “I’m moving to L.A.”
Pearson, who wore retro-style glasses with a black-and-white checked shirt and a red paisley bow tie to court, said she is working on two movies. She later updated her followers on Twitter, “I’m FREE.”
“The Wire,” which ran from 2002 to 2008, was filmed in Baltimore and put a spotlight on the city’s struggle with poverty and drug violence through the stories of the city’s police, drug organizations, schools, politicians and media. Pearson’s character, which shares the nickname “Snoop,” knocks off several people for the fictitious Stanfield drug gang.
This was not Pearson’s first brush with the law. She was convicted of second-degree murder in a slaying committed when she was 14. She served five years of an eight-year sentence and was released in 2000. Pearson was arrested on a minor drug charge in 2008 when police went to her home to pick her up for refusing to cooperate as a witness in a murder trial. She was found not guilty.