Ex-prisoner now works as Maryland law firm general manager

Johnnie Pratt

BALTIMORE (AP) — Walking back again into a keeping cell at the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore in 1994, Corey Woodfolk recalled, he did not know precisely how a great deal time the choose had sentenced him on a charge of conspiracy to distribute a lot more than a person kilogram of heroin.

At initial, he assumed that he experienced produced out. Which is because U.S. District Decide J. Frederick Motz handed down his sentence in months as a substitute of a long time. But Woodfolk reported he recognized that his mother was crying in the back again of the courtroom, and he started out to do the math.

He mentioned he turned to a deputy U.S. marshal and requested him, “How considerably time I bought?”

“Son,” he replied, “you acquired 50 years.”

For 23 many years, Woodfolk was incarcerated in federal jail, exactly where he taught himself the regulation and attained certificates in areas like paralegal scientific studies and small business and corporate law. Given that his launch in 2017, he is turn into the normal supervisor and litigation professional at Bates & Garcia, P.C., a regulation firm in Baltimore, and specializes in condition and federal appellate and article-conviction do the job.

“Any person can improve, if they want to change — at any time,” reported Woodfolk, 53, of Baltimore County. “You can do a thing unique, if you want to do some thing distinctive. But you got to want to do some thing unique.

“If I can do it,” he extra, “any one can do it.”

‘The streets by now had me’

Woodfolk grew up on Woodland Avenue in Park Heights. He explained he lived in a dwelling with 7-8 persons, which includes his mother, Debbie twin sisters, Sherry and Terry and grandparents, Sonia and Fred, the patriarch of the household who labored as a supervisor at a tire store and played bass in a jazz and blues band identified as Peck and the Vikings on weekends.

Developing up, Woodfolk said, he was smart and did effectively in school. He attended Pimlico Elementary and Greenspring Junior Substantial.

Medication, though, appeared to come to be far more commonplace in the community. Family users, he mentioned, began working with cocaine and heroin and providing sexual intercourse in the basement. His mom would give him a few pounds afterward to acquire candy — Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, Bit-O-Honey and Mary Jane — at a close by corner retailer, Woodfolk mentioned.

“We ended up young children. So for us, we were employed to observing it. We have been used to seeing them shooting dope. We had been used to seeing them tricking, marketing intercourse and all that stuff,” he explained. “It was a little something we observed each individual working day.”

At 14, Woodfolk explained, a male gave him a bag of marijuana and instructed, “Roll it up and sell it.” So Woodfolk stated he went to Park Heights and Woodland avenues, immediately sold the weed and netted enough to purchase a sandwich and French fries.

He claimed he became extra streetwise and started off to pass up faculty. He’d go down to the corner and watch the stash, earning $25-$30 at the close of the evening. His grandmother, he reported, was rigorous and kicked him out of the property for a few months. She afterwards made a decision to let him again.

“But by that time,” Woodfolk explained, “the streets now had me.”

Woodfolk attended Mergenthaler Vocational Technical Superior College for fewer than just one 12 months prior to transferring to Northwestern Significant Faculty, in which he was expelled in 10th quality for getting heroin. “I required to be a drug seller,” he mentioned. “At that level, it was ‘I’m advertising drugs.’ That’s what I understood. Which is what I saw. That is what I required.”

Up coming, Woodfolk attained his GED diploma and began taking classes in small business and personal computer promoting and administration at what was then termed Catonsville Community Higher education. In the meantime, he and his friend, Cornelius Langley, offered medications and drew impact from two movies: “The Godfather” and “Scarface.”

In 1988, Woodfolk pleaded responsible in Baltimore Circuit Court to attempted murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence in connection with a fight exterior the old film theater in the Reisterstown Road Plaza. He was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but 5 several years suspended, in addition five years’ probation.

When he was incarcerated at the Japanese Correctional Establishment, Woodfolk fulfilled Mumin Sahib Abdullah, who taught him about boxing and faith.

They afterwards went into business, selling huge amounts of heroin in Baltimore as element of an firm named Strong as Steel, in accordance to court docket documents.

Amongst 1991 and 1994, Solid as Metal distributed in excess of a person kilogram of heroin, federal prosecutors said. When the corporation started out to knowledge challenges with funds flow, associates turned to committing robberies to sustain their way of life.

“They were a dominant organization,” explained retired FBI Unique Agent Butch Hodgson. “They had been lousy boys.”

‘He’s a superior writer and authorized thinker than lots of lawyers’

On Jan. 10, 1994, Woodfolk stated, he was in mattress with his wife at the time, Lisa, when he read a bang on the doorway of their townhome at 5 or 6 a.m. He mentioned he awoke and grabbed a .357 Magnum, not figuring out no matter if folks ended up there to rob or get rid of him.

When he understood that it was regulation enforcement, he said, he sat on the mattress, put his hands up and waited for law enforcement to arrest him.

When at the United States Penitentiary, Atlanta, Woodfolk reported, he satisfied a prisoner who espoused sovereign citizen ideology — he claimed that the United States did not have jurisdiction in excess of them — and grew to become intrigued in the legislation. The gentleman, he mentioned, appeared like a trim model of Colonel Sanders and promised — for a fee — that he’d impart some of his expertise that was the important to flexibility.

But Woodfolk mentioned he later on realized that information was “mumbo-jumbo.” He started out with finding out company law and branched out into other areas. “I was now set on the route of regulation,” he stated. “I turned actually enthusiastic with it.”

He explained he’d support other prisoners and believed that he correctly litigated numerous issues in 20-25 circumstances during his incarceration.

In 2015, Woodfolk submitted a motion to cut down his 50-12 months sentence adhering to an adjustment to the federal sentencing pointers.

The warden of the Federal Correctional Establishment, Otisville, Monica Recktenwald, wrote him a letter of advice.

Lauren Scenario, a previous assistant federal community defender who represented Woodfolk in 2016, explained his comprehending of the regulation as “quite subtle.”

“He is a improved writer and authorized thinker than a lot of attorneys,” stated Scenario, who included that the two would examine the composing fashion of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. “He recognized nuances in the regulation that quite a few lawyers really don’t.”

“He’s just incredibly intelligent, and he resolved when he was incarcerated that he was likely to teach himself,” she extra. “And the judge saw that for what it was, which was a extraordinary rehabilitation.”

While then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Dwyer pointed out that Woodfolk participated in a variety of programming and work opportunities, she stated that he committed really serious crimes and asked for a new sentence of 41 several years and eight months in jail.

“He tortured victims, murdered competition, and threatened federal government cooperators,” Dwyer alleged in courtroom files. “There are no ensures that Petitioner is a transformed person.”

Former Assistant U.S. Lawyer Andrea Smith, one of the original prosecutors on the circumstance, said, “Corey Woodfolk’s a stone-chilly killer.” (Woodfolk disputes quite a few of the allegations in the situation as untrue or overblown.)

Motz — the same decide who sentenced Woodfolk in 1994 — granted the movement and decreased his sentence to 27 decades.

In the meantime, Woodfolk effectively submitted a movement for authorization to attractiveness his 1988 attempted-murder conviction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He prevailed in the stop.

During oral arguments, Edward Kelley, who appeared on behalf of the Maryland Place of work of the Legal professional Normal, reported he felt it was required to point out on the file that Woodfolk’s court docket filings had been some of the best composing that he’s noticed from a particular person representing himself or herself.

“I concur,” then-Circuit Judge Andre M. Davis replied. “I concur.”

“Not that I’m advocating for him to get unveiled,” Kelley responded. “But his pursuit by the court docket procedure has been really outstanding.”

Christopher Leach, an lawyer who represented Woodfolk when he challenged his 1988 tried-murder conviction, reported his shopper not only had a grasp of troubles that even fantastic attorneys obtain tough to get a cope with on, but he was a type man or woman.

“Mr. Woodfolk is the poster kid for why ‘lock ’em up and throw absent the key’ doesn’t make perception,” mentioned Leach, who added that he did not know him in the previous. “He is naturally generating favourable contributions to society. I am really satisfied he is not still in jail.”

‘If he was in a unique environment, he would be a lawyer’

Following his launch from prison in 2017, Woodfolk claimed, he was at a auto wash on Wabash Avenue near West Cold Spring Lane in West Baltimore when a man walked up to him.

“Hey, Corey.”

At 1st, Woodfolk was on edge. He imagined that could possibly be linked to some thing similar to his past. But then he understood it was his buddy, Carlmichael “Stokey” Cannady, CEO and founder of the Stokey Challenge, an leisure corporation, and a 2020 prospect for Baltimore mayor.

Cannady claimed he’d read that Woodfolk experienced been accomplishing a great deal of work in the legislation and required to introduce him to a mate.

Upcoming, Cannady called up Ivan Bates, a protection legal professional who’s now the incoming Baltimore state’s attorney. He was hunting for someone to help as he expanded his federal observe and supplied Woodfolk an chance to occur in for an interview.

Bates explained he experienced chatting about giving people second chances and felt that it would be hypocritical if he did not test to do it.

Woodfolk, he recalled, came in dressed in clothes that he applied to wear in the 1990s. Feel a brightly colored Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirt and FUBU jeans.

“He looked like I looked in my images in college,” Bates reported. “I was like, ‘OK. All correct. Dude, either you have the worst vogue feeling, or you definitely have been locked up for 20-moreover yrs.'”

So Bates reported he gave him a shot.

Woodfolk is punctual and a hard employee, Bates claimed. They’ve labored on a whole lot of motions and sentencing memorandums together, he explained, and created the law company a lot more efficient.

“He is the type of male that I imagine if he was in a various natural environment, he would be a attorney,” reported Bates, who added that Woodfolk has served advise his sights on second likelihood and returning citizens. “And he would make a major amount of cash as a attorney.”

Bates’ law spouse, Tony Garcia, explained Woodfolk’s lifestyle tale “feels like a family members movie that if you saw on tv, you wouldn’t believe that.”

Garcia stated Woodfolk is capable to link with consumers, help them understand the law and make positive that they do not come to feel abandoned.

Said Garcia: “We’ve been properly-rewarded.”

‘There’s no likely again in mindset’

A single day, Woodfolk explained, he needs to thank Motz in human being and show him that he “produced a superior guess on me.” He despatched a letter right after the ruling, in which he thanked the decide for providing him “”the option to have a new likelihood at lifestyle.”

Woodfolk reported he does not hold any nostalgia for his past. He stated he does not think about it, introducing that he’s taken off from that life style.

“There is no likely back again in frame of mind,” Woodfolk reported. “It is really been a journey for me.”

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