Going for walks back into a keeping cell at the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore in 1994, Corey Woodfolk recalled, he did not know specifically how substantially time the judge had sentenced him on a charge of conspiracy to distribute far more than one kilogram of heroin.
At initial, he assumed that he had produced out. That is for the reason that U.S. District Decide J. Frederick Motz handed down his sentence in months in its place of decades. But Woodfolk reported he noticed that his mother was crying in the back again of the courtroom, and he commenced to do the math.
He mentioned he turned to a deputy U.S. marshal and questioned him, “How a lot time I acquired?”
“Son,” he replied, “you obtained 50 years.”
For 23 a long time, Woodfolk was incarcerated in federal prison, in which he taught himself the law and acquired certificates in parts together with paralegal scientific studies and small business and company law. Because his launch in 2017, he’s turn into the normal supervisor and litigation professional at Bates & Garcia, P.C., a regulation organization in Baltimore, and specializes in condition and federal appellate and article-conviction do the job.
“Anybody can improve, if they want to modify — at any time,” claimed Woodfolk, 53, of Baltimore County. “You can do a little something diverse, if you want to do something diverse. But you acquired to want to do some thing diverse.
“If I can do it,” he extra, “anybody can do it.”
‘The streets previously had me’
Woodfolk grew up on Woodland Avenue in Park Heights. He reported he lived in a house with 7-8 persons, such as his mother, Debbie twin sisters, Sherry and Terry and grandparents, Sonia and Fred, the patriarch of the family who worked as a manager at a tire store and performed bass in a jazz and blues band referred to as Peck and the Vikings on weekends.
Growing up, Woodfolk stated, he was intelligent and did nicely in school. He attended Pimlico Elementary and Greenspring Junior Substantial.
Medicines, nevertheless, seemed to become extra widespread in the neighborhood. Family members associates, he explained, begun working with cocaine and heroin and advertising intercourse in the basement. His mom would give him a several bucks afterward to invest in candy — Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, Bit-O-Honey and Mary Jane — at a close by corner keep, Woodfolk mentioned.
“We ended up kids. So for us, we had been employed to looking at it. We were employed to viewing them shooting dope. We were employed to viewing them tricking, selling intercourse and all that things,” he reported. “It was something we noticed each individual day.”
At 14, Woodfolk mentioned, a guy gave him a bag of cannabis and instructed, “Roll it up and market it.” So Woodfolk claimed he went to Park Heights and Woodland avenues, quickly marketed the weed and netted enough to acquire a sandwich and French fries.
He mentioned he turned much more streetwise and began to overlook school. He’d go down to the corner and check out the stash, earning $25-$30 at the stop of the night. His grandmother, he explained, was demanding and kicked him out of the dwelling for a several months. She afterwards made a decision to allow him back again.
“But by that time,” Woodfolk claimed, “the streets currently had me.”
Woodfolk attended Mergenthaler Vocational Technical Substantial Faculty for much less than one 12 months prior to transferring to Northwestern Higher School, wherever he was expelled in 10th quality for acquiring heroin. “I needed to be a drug vendor,” he claimed. “At that position, it was ‘I’m providing medicine.’ That is what I understood. Which is what I noticed. That’s what I needed.”
Subsequent, Woodfolk acquired his GED diploma and begun using lessons in business enterprise and pc promoting and administration at what was then termed Catonsville Neighborhood Faculty. In the meantime, he and his mate, Cornelius Langley, sold prescription drugs and drew impact from two films: “The Godfather” and “Scarface.”
In 1988, Woodfolk pleaded responsible in Baltimore Circuit Court docket to attempted murder and use of a handgun in the fee of a criminal offense of violence in relationship with a fight outside the old movie theater in the Reisterstown Highway Plaza. He was at first sentenced to 10 yrs in jail, with all but 5 several years suspended, additionally 5 years’ probation.
When he was incarcerated at the Eastern Correctional Institution, Woodfolk achieved Mumin Sahib Abdullah, who taught him about boxing and religion.
They later went into organization, selling big quantities of heroin in Baltimore as portion of an corporation termed Potent as Steel, in accordance to courtroom documents.
In between 1991 and 1994, Strong as Metal distributed in excess of 1 kilogram of heroin, federal prosecutors claimed. When the group started off to working experience difficulties with cash flow, customers turned to committing robberies to maintain their way of life.
“They were a dominant organization,” reported retired FBI Exclusive Agent Butch Hodgson. “They were being negative boys.”
‘He’s a improved writer and lawful thinker than numerous lawyers’
On Jan. 10, 1994, Woodfolk reported, he was in bed with his spouse at the time, Lisa, when he read a bang on the door of their townhome at 5 or 6 a.m. He mentioned he awoke and grabbed a .357 Magnum, not being aware of no matter whether individuals were there to rob or kill him.
When he understood that it was law enforcement, he mentioned, he sat on the mattress, place his hands up and waited for law enforcement to arrest him.
When at the United States Penitentiary, Atlanta, Woodfolk said, he fulfilled a prisoner who espoused sovereign citizen ideology — he claimed that the United States did not have jurisdiction about them — and became fascinated in the legislation. The guy, he explained, looked like a slim model of Colonel Sanders and promised — for a charge — that he’d impart some of his understanding that was the essential to independence.
But Woodfolk reported he afterwards realized that details was “mumbo-jumbo.” He started out with learning corporate regulation and branched out into other places. “I was now set on the path of law,” he said. “I turned definitely thrilled with it.”
He reported he’d help other prisoners and approximated that he productively litigated several difficulties in 20-25 scenarios during his incarceration.
In 2015, Woodfolk filed a movement to reduce his 50-year sentence adhering to an adjustment to the federal sentencing pointers.
The warden of the Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville, Monica Recktenwald, wrote him a letter of suggestion.
Lauren Situation, a former assistant federal public defender who represented Woodfolk in 2016, explained his knowledge of the regulation as “very sophisticated.”
“He’s a improved writer and authorized thinker than quite a few lawyers,” stated Circumstance, who additional that the two would focus on the writing model of justices on the U.S. Supreme Courtroom. “He understood nuances in the legislation that quite a few attorneys do not.”
“He’s just incredibly intelligent, and he decided when he was incarcerated that he was going to educate himself,” she added. “And the judge saw that for what it was, which was a exceptional rehabilitation.”
However then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Dwyer mentioned that Woodfolk participated in a variety of programming and employment chances, she stated that he dedicated major crimes and questioned for a new sentence of 41 a long time and 8 months in prison.
“He tortured victims, murdered opponents, and threatened federal government cooperators,” Dwyer alleged in court docket paperwork. “There are no ensures that Petitioner is a changed man or woman.”
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Smith, a person of the initial prosecutors on the circumstance, claimed, “Corey Woodfolk’s a stone-cold killer.” (Woodfolk disputes many of the allegations in the case as untrue or overblown.)
Motz — the same choose who sentenced Woodfolk in 1994 — granted the movement and lowered his sentence to 27 a long time.
Meanwhile, Woodfolk productively submitted a movement for permission to attraction his 1988 attempted-murder conviction to the U.S. Courtroom of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He prevailed in the finish.
Through oral arguments, Edward Kelley, who appeared on behalf of the Maryland Place of work of the Lawyer Standard, said he felt it was vital to condition on the history that Woodfolk’s court docket filings have been some of the greatest creating that he’s witnessed from a man or woman symbolizing himself or herself.
“I concur,” then-Circuit Decide Andre M. Davis replied. “I concur.”
“Not that I’m advocating for him to get introduced,” Kelley responded. “But his pursuit by means of the court docket procedure has been really remarkable.”
Christopher Leach, an lawyer who represented Woodfolk when he challenged his 1988 tried-murder conviction, said his customer not only experienced a grasp of issues that even good lawyers come across tough to get a tackle on, but he was a variety particular person.
“Mr. Woodfolk is the poster youngster for why ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key’ doesn’t make feeling,” mentioned Leach, who included that he did not know him in the previous. “He’s obviously creating constructive contributions to society. I’m pretty happy he’s not nonetheless in prison.”
‘If he was in a distinctive setting, he would be a lawyer’
Adhering to his release from prison in 2017, Woodfolk claimed, he was at a car or truck clean on Wabash Avenue close to West Cold Spring Lane in West Baltimore when a man walked up to him.
At first, Woodfolk was on edge. He assumed that may be similar to a thing relevant to his previous. But then he recognized it was his close friend, Carlmichael “Stokey” Cannady, CEO and founder of the Stokey Undertaking, an enjoyment firm, and a 2020 applicant for Baltimore mayor.
Cannady claimed he’d heard that Woodfolk experienced been doing a large amount of work in the regulation and desired to introduce him to a close friend.
Future, Cannady called up Ivan Bates, a protection lawyer who’s now the incoming Baltimore state’s lawyer. He was seeking for someone to enable as he expanded his federal follow and made available Woodfolk an option to arrive in for an interview.
Bates explained he experienced talking about providing men and women second prospects and felt that it would be hypocritical if he did not test to do it.
Woodfolk, he recalled, came in dressed in garments that he applied to have on in the 1990s. Imagine a brightly colored Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirt and FUBU jeans.
“He looked like I looked in my shots in college,” Bates reported. “I was like, ‘OK. All appropriate. Dude, both you have the worst trend feeling, or you truly have been locked up for 20-in addition a long time.’”
So Bates reported he gave him a shot.
Woodfolk is punctual and a tough worker, Bates claimed. They’ve labored on a good deal of motions and sentencing memorandums together, he reported, and made the regulation company far more powerful.
“He’s the type of person that I believe that if he was in a distinctive surroundings, he would be a lawyer,” claimed Bates, who extra that Woodfolk has helped inform his views on next prospects and returning citizens. “And he would make a significant volume of cash as a lawyer.”
Bates’ regulation associate, Tony Garcia, explained Woodfolk’s life story “feels like a family movie that if you observed on television, you wouldn’t consider.”
Garcia reported Woodfolk is able to connect with purchasers, help them understand the law and make certain that they do not really feel deserted.
Said Garcia: “We’ve been nicely-rewarded.”
‘There’s no heading back in mindset’
One working day, Woodfolk claimed, he needs to thank Motz in man or woman and clearly show him that he “made a fantastic wager on me.” He despatched a letter after the ruling, in which he thanked the decide for offering him “”the opportunity to have a new prospect at existence.”
Woodfolk reported he does not maintain any nostalgia for his previous. He said he does not believe about it, incorporating that he’s eliminated from that life-style.
“There’s no going again in mentality,” Woodfolk stated. “It’s been a journey for me.”