U.S. magistrate judge rules Phillips County man facing gang, drug charges must stay in jail

Skirted probation rules cited in ruling

A Phillips County man, indicted along with 34 other people after an FBI investigation into gang activity in Central Arkansas linked to a Pine Bluff street gang known as EBK -- EveryBody Killas -- was ordered Thursday to stay in jail until his case is resolved.

Dewayne "Wolf" Baker, 50, of Helena-West Helena was indicted last November on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and use of a communications facility in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and has been held in federal custody since he was arrested Nov. 9.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Volpe, after hearing testimony from FBI Special Agent Jefferson Highfill on multiple wiretap conversations recorded during the investigation, noted that Baker, who was on parole from the Arkansas Department of Corrections, had apparently continued to engage in drug trafficking while on parole. In his detention order filed Thursday after the hearing, Volpe noted that Baker had admitted to federal agents that on the day of his arrest, he had directed his aunt to hide drugs on her person to keep law enforcement from finding them.

Baker's attorney, Lott Rolfe IV of North Little Rock, had presented a release plan naming Baker's wife as his third-party custodian who would be responsible for ensuring her husband's appearance at future court proceedings and who would be responsible for notifying the pretrial services office of any violations of the terms of his pretrial release.

That plan was opposed by Amanda Fields, an assistant U.S. attorney.

"You always put together a good plan and I think you've done so here," Volpe said to Rolfe after returning from a brief recess to consider the matter. "My problem is that, based on the testimony, Mr. Baker is on supervision and he's running circles around his probation officer and parole officer. I'm not saying he could do that with our officers but it sounds like he's smart and determined to thwart his supervision."

Volpe said a main concern of his with any defendant is, if released, will his conditions be followed.

"What we see here is he really doesn't want to follow conditions," he said. "He appears to be a very smart individual and very determined and so I just think ... he's not going to follow any conditions or combination of conditions that I may impose."

Volpe said despite Baker and his wife's 12-year history together, it appeared that Baker had engaged in criminal activity without raising his wife's suspicions.

"I think Ms. Baker means well and he's been running circles around her as well," he said. "He apparently has a strong history of using drugs and selling drugs, and she's unaware of it. ... He knows how to play the game and how to get out of a bad situation that he's in and rather than let the chips fall and say the gig is up, he's going to still try and get out of it."

Volpe said factors to be considered under the Bail Reform Act of 1984 require courts to "walk a fine line" between the interest of public safety and the presumption of innocence but said Baker's own admissions made it clear that pretrial detention was warranted.

"I don't think it's a question of fact," he said. "It happened the way it happened. ... The United States has shown by clear and convincing evidence that he is a danger to the community."