Cleveland drug lord Tevaughn “Big Baby” Darling was indicted back in September on charges of trafficking, drug possession, possessing criminal tools, tampering with evidence and conspiracy. The man deemed “a kingpin in the local heroin trafficking market” is also suspected of orchestrating a January mass shooting at the Chalk Linez barbershop in which three lives were taken. Darling, who is being held at Cuyahoga County Jail, is now the subject of even more controversy, due to his alleged actions behind bars. Cleveland.com reports:
Prosecutors say a 36-year-old man accused of being a heroin kingpin attempted to manipulate the system by paying for the legal representation of his three co-defendants with the ultimate goal of having one of the three take the blame for the entire criminal enterprise.
Darling stands accused of hiring lawyers to represent three of his co-defendants with hopes of coercing one into eating all of the charges filed against the enterprise operating on Cleveland’s East Side, flooding the streets with heroin, cocaine and blood. Prosecutors also allege that Darlings longtime attorney, Ralph DeFranco, “unwittingly committed actions that led to the death of a witness in the barbershop slayings.”
According to the prosecution, Darling acquired the East Side drug ring from his uncle, who is currently serving six years in federal prison. Darling, himself, has served several bids in prison on drug charges. It was last year that Darling started
making “LeBron James money” through the racket, according to the prosecution, which enabled him to buy cars, houses and other properties which he rents out to family members.
Regardless of his status in the streets, Darling was seen as food to members of the Loyal Always gang (formerly known as the LA Gunnaz), who robbed him on two occasions in 2014 and 2015. Darling allegedly stuck back by ordering a string of shootings. One of these retaliations was at the shooting at Chalk Linez barbershop. Darling allegedly enlisted 20-year-old Douglas ” Lil’ Duke” Shine for the dirty work that took the lives of Walter Lee Barfield, 23; William Gonzalez, 32; and Brandon White, 31.
The latest allegations stem from recordings of monitored phone calls from the jail. According to Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty, “Detectives have recovered tapes of Darling selling heroin and coordinating drug sales from our County Jail.”
Cleveland.com reveals Darling’s alleged tactics:
Darling made phone calls using the personal identification numbers of other inmates to try to evade detection by corrections officers. He also pretended to have phone conversations with his attorney, forcing corrections officers to leave the room in order to give him privacy.
“As soon as the C.O. leaves the room, Darling drops the subterfuge and resumes speaking normally, having the conversation he intended to have in secret,” prosecutors wrote in the court filing.
Prosecutors also claim to evidence that Darling paid for legal representation for his three co-defendants Duane “Worm” Washington, 44; Erica M. Crawford, 33; and Terri Buckner, 36. Prosecutors claim that Darling wrote Washington (referred to as “Big Homie”) in attempts to get him to take the blame for everybody. An excerpt from a letter from Darling to Washington reads:
“Can you please sit with your lawyer Jeff [Richardson] and write a statement telling the judge that we never conspired with you in any drug transactions and know nothing about this situation at all.”
Another letter to Buckner reads, “In situations as this you are suppose to be my other half and I’m seeing signs of weakness.”
The most serious allegations could mean an uncertain future for Darling’s attorney, DeFranco. The lawyer is implicated in the death of Aaron “Pudge” Ladson, a witness to the triple homicide at Chalk Linez. Darling is alleged to have conspired to have Ladson gunned down in June. However, DeFranco was potentially an unknowing pawn in that scheme. According to Cleveland.com:
Before Ladson’s death, authorities had taken him into custody — they say for his own protection — after he identified the shooter in the Chalk Linez slayings. They had the legal authority to hold him because he faced three separate drug cases.
But DeFranco persuaded a judge to release Ladson on home confinement, the motion says, despite a warning from prosecutors that Ladson was safer locked up. DeFranco wrote in court papers that Ladson had provided information to police that helped ID the Chalk Linez killer.
Court records indicate, though, that prosecutors did not object to Ladson being placed on home confinement. Spokesman Joe Frolik said his office had continuously objected to Ladson being released in any capacity, but pushed for restrictions once it was clear Ladson would be released.
The prosecution believes that Darling paid DeFranco to represent Ladson, so that he would be released and more accessible. “If Attorney DeFranco was paid by Darling to represent Ladson, and the evidence shows that Darling was part of the conspiracy to kill Ladson, this would cause irreparable damage to Attorney DeFranco’s standing at the trial if and when that evidence emerges,” reads the motion. Naturally, DeFranco denies any involvement in that way.
Darling and company appeared in Common Pleas court this morning. More reports will come as they are made available.