Back in 2005, a serious amount of corruption was discovered inside the ranks of the Baltimore Police Department, centered around the Public Housing Drug Unit. They were tasked with identifying and arresting known drug traffickers, almost all of whom were associated with the city’s many gangs. It’s always sad when you discover cops that have gone bad, but some of these officers were particularly egregious. A couple of them set up their own private enterprise to enrich themselves by shaking down drug dealers, taking their money and “product” (which they later resold to other dealers) in exchange for not arresting them. Fortunately, their scheme was uncovered and the officers were put on trial and convicted. But the sentencing phase went in an unexpected direction. The two former officers were sentenced to a combined 454 years in prison. Now, more than fifteen years later, their attorneys are arguing that the sentence was grossly excessive and they should be released. (Baltimore Sun)
Two notorious former Baltimore Police officers serving hundreds of years in federal prison for shaking down drug dealers are seeking to be released, arguing their sentences wouldn’t hold up today.
William King and Antonio Murray, public housing drug cops taken down by the FBI in 2005, took their cases to trial and in 2006 were sentenced to staggering prison terms of 315 and 139 years, respectively. At his sentencing, King described learning to commit crimes as a form of on-the-job training, and blamed immense pressure to reduce crime as the reason he and some colleagues went bad.
The judge at the time called the sentences “grossly disproportionate” to their crimes, and Congress has since passed sentencing reforms that, if the officers were convicted today, would have led to significantly lesser sentences, their attorneys say. The men were convicted of robbery, extortion, and drug and handgun offenses.
Just to be clear, I’m not going to come out here and argue that these former officers should be viewed as sympathetic figures or merit any sort of special treatment. Even if it’s true that they were “indoctrinated” by senior officers when they joined the force and were under the impression that lots of cops were doing it, they knew in their hearts that what they were doing was wrong. They were breaking the laws that they had taken an oath to enforce. If they somehow didn’t realize that then they were too stupid to be police officers anyway.