Problems existed before DVD, he says
BALTIMORE -- The man behind the DVD warning against snitching, which features a cameo appearance by Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony, said the video merely documents the harsh reality of life in West Baltimore.
The DVD "Stop Snitching" didn't create those realities, said Rodney Bethea, a 31-year-old West Baltimore barber, fashion designer and video maker.
"You can't blame the DVD for problems that existed before it came out," the young entrepreneur told The Baltimore Sun.
The two-hour video is a collection of scenes in which men display expensive watches, smoke marijuana, pull guns from their pockets and threaten the lives of criminals-turned-informants. Many of the rants are directed at Tyree Stewart, the alleged leader of a $50 million drug ring. Stewart was arrested last year and has been assisting authorities, federal court records show.
The video put a spotlight on a problem that has long plagued Baltimore's criminal justice system: witness intimidation.
It was condemned by officials such as U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.
The notoriety also helped sales. A copy recently sold on the Internet for $100.
"It's good people are talking about it, but I want people to understand what they're watching," Bethea said.
When "Stop Snitching" made the news this month, most of the attention focused on Anthony, the former Towson Catholic star and West Baltimore native.
Anthony, 20, doesn't respond to any of the comments about violence, but he laughs in one scene and is named in the DVD's credits. He stands next to a man who warns that people who tip off Baltimore police about drug deals will "get a hole in their head." The DVD is being sold on Baltimore streets for $10.
The NBA forward, who grew up in Baltimore, tells fans on his Web site that he didn't know a DVD was being made and didn't approve of its content.
"I want you all to know that I come from a very tough neighborhood," Anthony wrote. "I'm not embarrassed of that, but I don't condone some of the things that happen there, and I'm simply working very hard to rise above that difficult environment."
Bethea says he does not know Anthony well, but the star appeared in two previous Bethea-produced DVDs. In those videos, the 6-foot-8-inch player is seen dancing on a street and hanging out in the back room at a night club. Some of the footage of Anthony was shot this summer at a basketball event in Richmond, Va.
In addition to Anthony, his teammate Rodney White; Michael K. Williams, star of HBO's The Wire; and rapper Jadakiss made cameo appearances.
In making the earlier music-centered videos, which feature displays of drugs and guns, producer Bethea discovered that people on the streets had a lot to say.
Many were angry about snitches, arrested criminals who informed authorities about the illegal activities of others.
He decided to title his next effort "Stop Snitching."
"I didn't tell anybody what to say. They took it upon themselves," Bethea says.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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