Imagine trying to defend a client accused of killing someone who comes to court with the word “murder” tattooed across his neck. Or trying to convince a jury that the suspect is really a good guy even though his best friend knows him only as “Bloody Batman.”
With gangs gaining strength in Baltimore, nicknames are gaining popularity on the street, and more often than not it’s a nickname rather than a real name by which many are known. And law enforcement authorities, especially the feds, don’t hesitate to use the monikers.
Here’s a sample from one recent indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore: charged were Sticks, Face, Tink, Pudge, Fat Boy, Slinky, Big Boy, Big Man, Gotti, Mud, Wimp, Nitty and Zitty.
The Baltimore Sun’s Tricia Bishop wrote about gang nicknames last year, and the list of new ones keeps growing. More and more, defense attorneys and prosecutors say, the nicknames reflect violence rather than a personality trait or physical characteristic.
In the past, Baltimore had “Peanut King.” Now, “Murder” and “Killer” are becoming more common as nicknames, not to mention “Savage” and various forms of the word “bloody.” Young men tattoo the names to their necks and arms, or ink teardrops under their eyes, one for each person they’ve killed.
The very names and symbols reflect guilt.
Defense attorney Warren A. Brown said that recently he put a Band-Aid on a young client’s neck to cover the tattooed word “murder.” But prosecutors got the judge to order the covering removed, giving jurors a full view of how the defendant wanted to be known.
While the Mafia seems to choose names that make for good headlines, the suspect drug dealers in Baltimore have a more narrow approach. “The monikers are for the world they live in,” Brown said. “They long ago opted out of the mainstream. The names they choose are for their own little world, where they want to be known as ‘Black,’ or ‘Killer.’
“In their world, that’s not a bad thing,” Brown said. “But of course when they come to court, it hurts.”
Nicknames have always been a part of criminal lore, often helping elevate criminals to mythical stature: Jack the Ripper, Scarface, Blackbeard, Doctor Death, Son of Sam, the Angel of Death, to name a few well-known examples.
Some nicknames can make criminals sounds more dangerous — or more folksy. Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi seems self-explanatory, but there’s also the “Dapper Don,” the softer side of Mafia kingpin John Gotti, and of course “Pretty Boy” Floyd.