Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force Corruption Case Heads to Court

Daniel Hersl (left), Marcus Taylor (right)

January 22 2018

Two officers charged in Baltimore’s biggest police corruption scandal in memory go on trial Monday in U.S. District Court.

The case started with the drug overdose of a 19-year-old from New Jersey in Harford County in 2011.

Authorities worked to find out who provided the drugs to the woman. The search led to a Northeast Baltimore drug crew supplying Harford and Baltimore counties.

It was during an investigation into that crew that federal task force officers realized that a Baltimore police officer was an active participant in the crew’s activities.

Attorney for indicted Baltimore Police gun task force officer says his client had asked to be taken off the streets
That led authorities to Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force — and the federal indictment of eight members of the elite unit on racketeering charges. They were accused of executing searches without warrants, invading private homes, robbing suspects and innocent citizens of cash and reselling drugs on the street.

Six have pleaded guilty, and four are cooperating with the government. They are expected to testify in the trial, which could last three weeks.

The proceeding in U.S. District Court in Baltimore trial is likely to add new details. Among the lingering questions: How did the officers’ conduct go unchecked for so long? Who else knew of their activities? And who tipped the unit off to an investigation into their crimes?

Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor have pleaded not guilty. Both are fighting charges of racketeering conspiracy, robbery, and possession of a firearm in a crime of violence. They have been held pending trial.

In court filings and a hearing earlier this month, Hersl’s attorney has indicated that he plans to argue that the alleged robberies were isolated incidents in a long career spent pursuing drug dealers and gun-wielding criminals.

Attorney William Purpura is also arguing that as a police officer, Hersl is allowed to seize money from a person when he has probable cause to suspect the person has committed a crime. Seizing money legally and then keeping it for for himself would be theft, he says, not robbery.

“Detective Hersl while on the gun task force and prior to being on that particular gun task force has been engaged in Baltimore City, ridding the city [of] guns,” Purpura said at a motions hearing. “There’s been hundreds and hundreds of guns which he’s personally taken off the street. And what we have here from 2014 through 2016 is a handful, maybe five, maybe six incidents out of all those hundreds and we consider those incidents not to be good conduct — they are crimes, but the crimes would be a theft crime and not a robbery and/or an extortion type of crime.”

Federal prosecutors say he should not be able to make such arguments.

Taylor is charged in five incidents from 2014 to 2016. His trial strategy is not clear, and his attorney did not return messages seeking comment. They filed motions last week seeking to get the case thrown out.

The indictment alleges breathtaking corruption as the U.S. Department of Justice was conducting a civil rights investigation of the Police Department.

Taylor is alleged to have taken part in what may have been the largest robbery: a March 2016 incident in which his squad took $6,500 from a man during a traffic stop, then went to his home and took $100,000 out of a safe.

Using Taylor’s cell phone, the officers created a fake video depicting the officers finding the money. In reality, half the cash had already been removed.

After the search, the officers went to Taylor’s house, where Det. Wayne Jenkins gave at least $20,000 each to the other officers.

The other officers involved in that allegation have pleaded guilty.

Corruption, controversy marred Baltimore Police Commissioner Davis’ final year
Christopher Ervin, who founded the re-entry group The Lazarus Rite, said the Gun Trace Task Force allegations are “shocking for people who don’t live in those communities.”

“In the black community, this is not shocking at all,” Ervin said. “You get a chorus of, ‘We’ve been saying that.’ ”

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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