The latest Baltimore police officer indicted on federal racketeering charges pleaded not guilty at a hearing Thursday and was ordered held in detention pending trial.
The joint arraignment and detention hearing in the federal courthouse downtown came one day after the unsealing of Sgt. Thomas Allers’ indictment, which alleged that he joined seven officers under his supervision in robbing local residents over the course of several years.
Allers is also accused of writing false affidavits and filing false incident reports to help cover up the alleged corruption.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise argued at Thursday’s hearing that Allers could obstruct justice ahead of his trial were he released.
Wise said evidence against Allers — which he described as “overwhelming” and “powerful” — is from fellow officers who cooperated in the alleged robberies, and from victims who are “terrified they will be retaliated against.”
One of Allers’ alleged victims said that is true in an interview Thursday with The Baltimore Sun. She asked that her name not be used because of her fear of retribution. The woman, 31, who is identified only by her initials T.A. in court documents, said she and her two children have been homeless since their brush with Allers’ Gun Trace Task Force.
The team raided her home in March 2016 looking for her boyfriend, and found drugs and $8,000 of his drug proceeds, according to court papers. But while she had a legitimate income as a certified nursing assistant, the officers also seized $200 in her purse that her daughter had received the previous day for her birthday, as well $900 set aside to pay rent and $300 owed to the utility company.
Allers reported that he had seized $1,624 from the boyfriend’s dresser drawer, but federal authorities say he pocketed and split with another officer $7,000 that belonged to the woman and her boyfriend.
She said the loss left her unable to pay bills and forced her into bankruptcy.
“I live paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “They messed up my life.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge A. David Copperthite said the allegations against Allers represented “the most serious violation of public trust” and ruled there were no conditions of pretrial supervision that could ensure public safety were Allers released pending trial.
The ruling was in line with those in the cases against the seven other officers indicted in the case, all of whom have been ordered held pending their trials.
Both prosecutors and pretrial services had requested Allers be detained.
Wise said Allers “essentially greenlighted the crime spree” of robberies that he and his officers committed between 2014 and 2016, when Allers was in charge of the gun task force. He noted Allers is alleged to have participated in nine robberies, more than any of the other officers.
Wise said pretrial release is based on trust, which Allers doesn’t deserve, given that he is alleged to have repeatedly lied to law enforcement and the courts in official documents.
Wise said Allers had a “contempt for the idea that they could be caught,” allegedly committing robberies in other jurisdictions where he knew outside law enforcement agencies would be investigating and continuing to commit robberies in Baltimore — in fact, picking up the pace of robberies in the city — after the U.S. Department of Justice began investigating the Baltimore Police Department in May 2015.
“He’s already demonstrated by his conduct that he can’t be trusted,” Wise said.
Gary Proctor, Allers’ defense attorney, argued for his release, saying his client represented no threat to the public and was not a flight risk.
Proctor said that Allers turned himself in and that his wife — who was in court — provided FBI agents who searched his home with a key to the family’s safe.
“He looks forward to his day in court,” Proctor said.
Allers, 49, who joined the Police Department in 1996, gave a reassuring wink to family members as he walked into the courtroom in handcuffs. He only spoke briefly to answer questions from the clerk before providing his not-guilty plea. Allers’ family members all declined to comment after the hearing.
Proctor said Allers has known since April, when he was first contacted by federal prosecutors, that he would be charged in the case, and has neither fled nor tried to influence or interfere in the investigation since that time. That, Proctor said, made Allers’ situation “materially different” from those of his fellow officers who were ordered detained pending trial, because he has already demonstrated that he would comply with pretrial conditions.
Wise responded by saying that the fact Allers knew he could face criminal charges did not distinguish him from the seven other officers, specifically because Allers had allegedly tipped those other officers off that they were under federal investigation before they were indicted.
Proctor also tried to show Copperthite the results of a polygraph test Allers took, but the judge said such evidence is inadmissible in federal court and he would not look at it.
Both Wise and Proctor discussed — in very different terms — a four-page letter written by Allers and discovered by federal agents who searched his home. Copperthite took several minutes in the middle of the hearing to read the letter.
Wise described the letter as a suicide note in which Allers also threatened his wife’s safety — which Wise said was another reason why Allers should be detained.
Proctor described it as a love note to Allers’ wife expressing “how much and deeply he cares” for her and reassuring her that no matter what happened to him, she would be fine. Proctor said the letter was written months ago, when Allers was “having a really hard time,” but that he has since received mental health counseling. Proctor said Allers should be allowed to stay at home, under around-the-clock supervision by his family and with an ankle monitor on, pending his trial.
Afterwards, Copperthite thanked Allers’ family for being there. Too often, defendants in his courtroom have no one there to support them, he said. Then he ordered Allers held, citing the “severe violation of public trust” alleged, the recommendation against release by pretrial services, and the potential — which he did not elaborate on — that there “may be other cases related to this” in the works.
The 31-year-old woman who said the gun task force stole money from her under Allers’ watch said she testified before a grand jury in the case last month. She said she and her two young children have been moving from place to place recently, living with friends as she tries to rebuild her credit and find someone who will rent to her.
The woman said she never before had bad experiences with police, but the task force officers who visited her home were “arrogant” and handcuffed her so she couldn’t tend to her infant child as they searched her house. “I was so fearful,” she said.
She said she hopes to receive restitution, but has not had any recent contact with federal authorities.
“Nobody is helping us,” she said.