BALTIMORE – Two Baltimore detectives were convicted Monday of robbery and racketeering in a trial that laid bare shocking crimes committed by an elite police unit and surfaced new allegations of widespread corruption in the city’s police department.
Daniel Hersl, 47, and Marcus Taylor, 30, join six colleagues from the Gun Trace Task Force who already had pleaded guilty in a conspiracy that also included overtime fraud. But the guilty verdicts offer small comfort for a city where homicides keep rising and guns violence rocks neighborhoods even as the police department struggles to overcome accounts of bias and lawbreaking.
The head of internal affairs has been transferred and a deputy commissioner has retired after both were implicated in misconduct during trial testimony. Thousands of convictions in cases handled by the task force are now being questioned by defense attorneys.
“This trial took you inside the Baltimore Police Department,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise told jurors last week. “It showed you things more horrible in some cases than you ever could have imagined.”
Evodio Hendrix and Jemell Rayam.
After the verdicts, Acting Police Commissioner Darryl DeSousa said in statement that the indictment and trial “uncovered some of the most egregious and despicable acts ever perpetrated in law enforcement,” and said he had zero tolerance for corruption.
DeSousa, who was named to head the department amid outrage over spiking crimes, said his 3,100-member force would need to earn back trust and respect from the community and said “I understand the doubt, fear and pessimism…” but pledged to root out “anyone who thinks they can tarnish the badge.”
Most of the behaviour charged in the case took place even as the department was already under federal investigation by the Justice Department for routinely violating residents’ constitutional rights, particularly in dealings with African Americans.
That 14-month Justice investigation began in the wake of protests and rioting after the death of Freddie Gray from an injury in police custody and ended in August 2016 with a scathing report and a consent decree under which police have started wearing body cameras, begun new training and submitted to community and judicial oversight.
Over two weeks in federal court, four former members of the once-lauded unit who earlier pleaded guilty took the stand in their new prison uniforms and admitted crimes denied for years during internal investigations and lawsuits. The cops stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, drugs, guns, and luxury accessories while pretending to be seizing the goods for legitimate enforcement objectives. They concocted reasons to chase and search suspects or enter houses without warrants to sift through goods they wanted. They covered up their involvement in car crashes when rogue pursuits went bad.
One officer gave his girlfriend a stolen Chanel purse, according to his testimony. Other officers provided security for a high-level drug deal at a strip club.
They doubled their salaries by lying to claim extravagant overtime when they were actually at bars or, in another instance, out of the country on vacation.
Maurice Ward, Momodu Gando and Wayne Jenkins.
Hersl put his head …read more