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Two Baltimore Police Officers Found Guilty of Armed Robbery, Racketeering

The trial of two Gun Trace Task Force members sheds light on a deeply dysfunctional department.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh with new Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Darryl DeSousaKim Hairston/TNS/NewscomA jury has found two former Baltimore police officers guilty of robbery, racketeering, and conspiracy for their years-long participation in a crime ring within the city's Gun Trace Task Force. By detailing one of the most egregious cases of police corruption in Baltimore's history, the trial has raised broad questions about misconduct within a department that has struggled for decades to shake a reputation for malfeasance and to gain the public's trust.

Eight members of the task force were indicted; Officers Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor were the only two to reject plea deals and face trial. They now face a statutory maximum of 60 years in prison, though they will probably receive a lesser sentence following what are likely to be complex negotiations over the applicable federal guidelines.

During three weeks of testimony, the jury heard from four other task force members from a number of the officers' victims. The witnesses painted a picture of a group that stole money, guns, and drugs both under the pretense of doing police work and off the clock as a masked gang of stickup men.

The cooperating co-conspirators testified that the officers, under the direction of the task force's sergeant, used their police powers to gather information about the location of stashes of guns, cash, and drugs, which they would then either "seize" and keep for themselves or steal in armed robberies and home invasions.

Among other things, jurors heard that the cops

  • carried a "robbery kit," containing masks, crowbars, and a grappling hook, in their police vehicles;
  • carried BB guns to plant on the bodies of anyone they might shoot during a robbery;
  • resold drugs that had been looted from pharmacies during the Baltimore riots of 2015;
  • stole half of $200,000 found in a safe during a burglary, then covered up the theft by staging a videotaped "search" during which they "discovered" the safe and the remaining $100,000; and
  • shot a fleeing suspect in the back to avoid having to chase him.

In one particularly memorable section of the trial, a parade of career drug dealers took the stand to testify that task force members had robbed them.

The trial has also raised the specter of another recent sensational crime in Baltimore. One of the co-conspirators testified that homicide detective Sean Suiter participated in at least one of the gang's robberies. Suiter received a subpoena to appear before the federal grand jury investigating the task force, but he was shot and killed the night before he was scheduled to be questioned. The killing remains unsolved.

Suiter is not the only officer who has been implicated by witnesses but not indicted. A number of cops who were no longer affiliated with the task force at the time its crimes were discovered participated in its illegal activities before transferring out, according to the cooperating officers.

They also alleged that a deputy police commissioner, Dean Palmere, coached task force members in what to say to avoid punishment following an unjustified shooting in 2009, and that the chief of the internal affairs unit, Ian Dombroski, routinely agreed to authorize fraudulent overtime hours as a reward for making gun arrests.

A local prosecutor may have been a conspirator as well. In pretrial proceedings, Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise told the judge that his office suspected someone in the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office of tipping task force members off to the existence of a federal investigation into their activities.

The revelation of the Gun Trace Task Force's misconduct is already causing fallout. State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby has already vacated 125 cases in which the convicted officers were involved, and defense attorneys say that thousands more are tainted and must be reviewed. What if any steps will actually be taken to review and address such cases remains to be seen, as does whether prosecutors will pursue cases against any of the other officers implicated during the trial.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    They watched The Wire and took the Eddie Walker character as an instruction manual.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    NO SPOILERS.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Hahaha for real. They should make a new season based on this story, get the old gang together.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Suiter received a subpoena to appear before the federal grand jury investigating the task force, but he was shot and killed the night before he was scheduled to be questioned. The killing remains unsolved.

    I'm sure it does.

    Task forces are breeding grounds for bad actors.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Ok, I'm convinced. I no longer thing gun control is racist.

  • Jerryskids||

    Remember this is a purely local matter that the local cops should investigate, though, there's no role for the DoJ to investigate systemic civil rights violations within a city police department.

  • Tionico||

    Not quite... seems DoJ were having a look see and on the trail of drug and firearms crimes, both of which they, under current law, do have "jurisdiction". BUT when one applies the US Constitution, they don't. but the ONLY cure for that violation of law would be to disband DoJ top to bottom, which SHOULD be done.

    the "downside' of that, however, would be the end of the lame excuse now cited for so much "law enforcement". Repeal the entire COntrolled Substances Act, and put thousands of coppers and Fed agents out of work. This result would be a feature, not a big.

  • juris imprudent||

    Too bad this is not going to inspire a Law and Order episode.

  • Tionico||

    Seems Baltimore have been exhibiting quite a record of crime, corruption, etc, these past few years..... the riots, and the mayoress declaring "they wanted to destroy, so we decided to give them space to destroy" Now we have coppers moonlighing as arms and drug dealers, and armed robbery. All the while these same coppers have been arresting and charging local folks for doing precisely the same thing THEY are doing, only THEY have the favour of the corrupt city government, and its protection.

    SO GLAD they got "made" and busted. I can only imagine how things might go in da joynt when some bruiser they sent up for a few decades recognises them, and learns WHY they're in there. Methinks there just might be a rather different flavour of "justice" meted out.

    Any trials in which these filthy coppers were involved should be vacated, full exoneration for the convicted..... and the filthy coppers also charged and tried for perjury for EACH TIME they lied and/or failed to bring forward exculpatory evidence... such as that the arresting officer planted a gun on the stiff after he shot him, or that the copper dropped the dime bag i the bathroom the first time through, which was "discovered" by the same filthy copper on Round Two.

  • vek||

    The level of corruption never ceases to amaze me. What does blow my mind though is that there were multiple people working together! If I was going to be a crooked cop I'd do it solo style. A lot harder to get busted/ratted out that way I'd think. A large organized scam can only go on so long before it is found out. Jacking some cash here and there from drug busts? You could probably make it to retirement doing that kind of shit.

  • The Laissez-Ferret||

    Yes, but you're a humble sensible person. A lot of cops are egomaniacs who think they'll never get caught and if they are, their "punishment" is to have their union bury the case and they get off. They've also probably seen several schemes just like this done by older cops for years who never got punished.

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