BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A move to protect witnesses testifying against alleged members of the Black Guerrilla Family. A city judge has granted an unusual protection order.

Meghan McCorkell explains what the order entails.

According to that order, the defendants won’t learn who is testifying against them until days before the trial.

The Black Guerrilla Family — one of the most powerful gangs in Maryland — is notorious for running a drug smuggling ring behind the walls of the Baltimore City Detention Center.

“It gains its power within the jails and prisons and then exerts that power on the streets,” U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said.

Forty-eight alleged gang members now await trial, facing decades in prison. Now a judge has issued a protective order for the witnesses set to testify in those cases.

According to that order, defense attorneys won’t be given a witness list until 45 days before trial. The defendant will only learn the witnesses a week ahead of time.

“It is pretty unusual,” legal expert Bryon Warnken (http://www.warnkenlaw.com) said.

Warnken says an order like this is rare, indicating witnesses are scared of intimidation — or worse.

“It doesn’t take too many witnesses being killed before other potential witnesses say, ‘You know, I’m not going to testify,'” said Warnken.

“Witness intimidation is very strong in the city,” Marge Shipley said.

Shipley would know. Her son, Carl Lackl, was gunned down in 2006 — just before he was set to take the stand in a murder case.

The year before, Edna Mcabier nearly lost her life when gang members firebombed her home as she cooperated with police in a drug case.

It was a firebomb that killed seven members of the Dawson family in 2002 after Angela Dawson repeatedly called police about drug dealers in her neighborhood.

Now prosecutors hope this ruling in the BGF case keeps witnesses safe so they can have their day in court.

Thirty-eight of the alleged BGF members are being charged under the Maryland gang statute. They face up to 20 years behind bars.

Nearly two dozen correctional officers have pleaded guilty to helping the BGF smuggle drugs into the city jail.

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