Judge Apologizes to Man Who Feds Say Had Drugs Planted by Gun Trace Task Force Officer

A U.S. District Court judge stepped down from his bench on Monday and apologized to two men who spent years in prison after allegedly having drugs planted on them by an officer charged in the Gun Trace Task Force racketeering case.

Umar Burley was freed from prison in August — seven years into a 15-year sentence — as prosecutors pursued allegations that Baltimore Police Sgt. Wayne Jenkins planted drugs in Burley’s car following a deadly high-speed chase in 2010. Jenkins was arrested in March along with the rest of his squad, and charged with robbing citizens and falsifying documents for years.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett vacated Burley’s conviction, as well as the conviction of a second man, Brent Matthews, who served almost four years in prison.

Both Burley and Matthews pleaded guilty. Bennett, who accepted their pleas at the time, said the court takes a deliberate, careful approach when accepting guilty pleas, but “the system still failed.”

Bennett walked out from behind the bench and said he was apologizing on behalf of the government.

“I’m very sorry,” he said while shaking their hands.

Outside the courtroom, Burley said he appreciated the judge’s gesture but said the case has been a “nightmare that just won’t end for me.”

“I may have been released, but nothing has changed. My life will never be the same again,” he said, reading from a statement.

Feds have reopened 2010 case involving slain Baltimore detective and indicted gun task force officer
The effort to clear their convictions was initiated by the U.S. attorney’s office, and became the first federal convictions to be overturned as a result of allegations against the rogue police squad.

More could follow: On Monday, the federal public defender’s office made its first formal effort to get a case overturned, arguing for the release of another man serving federal prison time.

In their petition on behalf of Levar Mullen, a former Safe Streets ant-violence worker convicted for having a gun, the federal public defender’s office said Jenkins, Evodio Hendrix and a third officer “lied … in order to justify his stop and arrest” in 2014. Hendrix is another member of the gun unit who has pleaded guilty.

“The plethora of newly revealed evidence of police misconduct against all three of the arresting officers rips to shreds their credibility and gives force to the claim that Mr. Mullen’s guilty plea was involuntarily induced by a fabricated statement of probable cause produced by a team of corrupt police officers,” the federal public defender’s office wrote.

Bennett said that he was the judge who approved the federal wiretaps as the Gun Trace Task Force was being investigated, and said he became concerned that people may have been wrongly convicted on the officers’ word. In court Monday, Bennett brought up what he called the “ugly” cases in Maryland’s U.S. District Court leading to the conviction of Vice President Spiro Agnew and Gov. Marvin Mandel, and said they “pale in comparison to how ugly this case is.”

“I’m afraid this is not over yet,” Bennett said.

Five former Gun Trace Task Force members have pleaded guilty, while three others — including Jenkins — are slated for a trial next month. The city has received notice of more than 40 civil claims related to the officers, while city prosecutors have moved to release more than 175 people who were facing charges or were convicted in cases brought by the task force members. The Maryland public defender’s office says that by their count, more than 2,000 state cases are “irreparably” tainted.

For full story visit: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-burley-conviction-vacated-20171218-story.html

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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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