Fifth Baltimore police officer to plead guilty in gun task force case

A fifth officer charged in the Baltimore police gun task force scandal is set to plead guilty, his attorney confirmed.

Sgt. Thomas Allers, who is charged with stealing more than $100,000 over three years while he was the supervisor of the Gun Trace Task Force, is scheduled to appear in federal court Wednesday. Defense attorney Gary Proctor confirmed Allers will enter a guilty plea to one count of racketeering.

Allers led a unit once praised by the Police Department as key to its crime-fighting strategy of taking guns off the streets. The unit has been disbanded, its members accused of robbing and extorting citizens, falsifying paperwork to cover their tracks and filing for unearned overtime for years.

Allers was not part of the initial indictment in February of the seven active members of the unit, but the former supervisor was charged in August with racketeering conspiracy and robbery. Federal prosecutors allege he participated in nine robberies between 2014 and 2016.

According to the indictment, Allers’ adult son, who was not a police officer, participated in a raid where $66,000 was taken by father and son and two other detectives. Allers’ son has not been charged. In another incident, police said a man robbed by Allers was unable to pay a drug debt and was murdered as a result.

Eight city police officers have been charged in the case, as well as a Philadelphia police officer who once worked in Baltimore. A trial is tentatively scheduled for January for two officers who have pleaded not guilty and another who has not entered a plea. All nine are in jail while awaiting sentencing or trial.

At least one of the officers has indicated he is ready to fight the case. In motions filed Monday, an attorney for Det. Daniel Hersl said he plans to contend that the taking of money was legally justifiable and, if pocketed, was theft and not robbery.

“Mr. Hersl will contend at trial, that the arrests and/or detentions of the suspects … and the seizure of their property, was justified by probable cause, or on good faith that probable cause was present, and, therefore, at the time of the seizure, the takings of any property from the suspects was legally justified, and therefore not ‘felonious,’ or ‘wrongful’ at the time of the taking,” defense attorney William B. Purpura wrote in a motion. “Any conversion of the seized property after the fact, was a theft.”

“The question of whether Mr. Hersl’s conduct amounted to robbery, extortion, or theft will be the central issue for the jury to decide,” Purpura wrote.

None of the officers who have pleaded guilty have been sentenced; at least two are cooperating with authorities against their former colleagues. Proctor declined to comment on whether Allers has agreed to cooperate.

Marc Zayon, a defense attorney who is not involved in the case, said it is not unusual for sentencing of co-defendants to be postponed until after verdicts have been reached for everyone charged. But he said the delay could signify that some defendants are cooperating and the government wants to ensure they uphold their part of an agreement.

“I think [prosecutors] are following the evidence wherever it takes them,” Zayon said. “If you don’t take advantage of an early offer and accept responsibility early on, then they continue to focus on you, find other things, and it usually goes downhill from there.”

Federal prosecutors previously said evidence against Allers — described by the government as “overwhelming” and “powerful” — was from fellow officers who cooperated in the alleged robberies.

Allers’ indictment repeatedly lists incidents involving “M.G.” and “J.R.” Detectives Momodu Gondo and Jemell Rayam have both pleaded guilty and testified that they are cooperating with authorities.

Allers was detailed to a Drug Enforcement Administration task force in June 2016, officials have previously said.

It was the DEA that first caught on to alleged illegal activities of the gun task force, after picking up Gondo on a wiretap as he discussed drug trafficking with a drug dealer who was under investigation. The FBI then began investigating Gondo and other members of the task force.

Last week, prosecutors filed new charges against Det. Wayne Jenkins, the supervisor of the gun task force at the time of the indictments, alleging he planted drugs on a man. That case involved Jenkins and Detective Sean Suiter, who was fatally shot on Nov. 15, just a day before he was scheduled to appear before a federal grand jury investigating the gun task force.

Police have said they know of no connection between Suiter’s testimony and his death, but have asked federal authorities to take over the investigation into Suiter’s death.

The public defender’s office in Baltimore has said that cases involving the gun task force members are “irreparably tainted,” and said they have worked to secure the release of 75 clients. They believe more than 2,000 cases are compromised.

On Monday, the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office released updated data on their review of cases related to the Gun Trace Task Force officers. They said they have identified 277 active and closed cases in which the officers were involved, and have dropped 125 of them. They say they have 71 cases under review.

jfenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
39°