After nearly three weeks of testimony and two days of deliberation, a federal jury on Monday found two Baltimore police detectives guilty of racketeering and robbery. The cases against them were made as part of an ongoing investigation into corruption and rogue officers on the already heavily criticized police force.
The Associated Press reports that Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor were led out of the courtroom in shackles after the verdict was read.
Both were charged with extortion, robbery and racketeering—and now face life in prison. The racketeering and robbery convictions came under the Hobbs Act, which prohibits interference with interstate commerce. They were both cleared of possession of a firearm in pursuance of a violent crime.
Both officers have been suspended without pay since being indicted in March 2017, and acting Police Commissioner Darryl DeSousa said in a statement that the department will now move to fire them.
“We recognize that this indictment and subsequent trial uncovered some of the most egregious and despicable acts ever perpetrated in law enforcement,” DeSousa said.
The two defendants were members of the elite unit known as the Gun Trace Task Force. Four other former members of that unit—all of whom pleaded guilty to corruption charges—testified against Hersl and Taylor in their federal trial. Their testimony was given in hopes that their sentences might be shortened.
The former law enforcement officers testified that the unit was actually made up of thugs with badges who broke into homes, stole cash, resold looted narcotics and lied under oath to cover their tracks. Wearing lockup jumpsuits, the ex-detectives admitted to everything from armed home invasions to staging fictitious crime scenes and routinely defrauding their department with bogus overtime claims.
The unit’s onetime supervisor, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, did not testify during the trial, but his former subordinates presented a portrait of a “wildly corrupt officer,” according to AP, “leading his unit on a tireless quest to shake down civilians and find ‘monsters’—big-time drug dealers with lots of loot to steal.” He occasionally posed as a federal agent during shakedowns and told his officers to carry BB guns to plant on their victims if necessary.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise called the two defendants “hunters” and said that they largely targeted “the weak and the vulnerable.” He reminded jurors that the central question in the trial was the men’s actions, and said whether some of their robbery victims made money “selling drugs or Girl Scout cookies” was irrelevant.
Amid the indictments of the eight officers, roughly 125 cases in which they were involved have been dropped.
Debbie Katz Levi, head of special litigation for Baltimore’s Office of the Public Defender, said, “Beyond the sheer credibility issues that should have been raised at the time, given how embedded their crimes were in their police work, all cases involving these officers are tainted.”