Another federal inmate arrested by Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force officers is released

Another federal inmate serving time after being arrested by members of the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force has been released from prison, records show.

U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett signed off on a motion by prosecutors and defense attorneys for Paul Jones that vacates his conviction. The order was signed a day before convicted police Det. Maurice Ward took the stand in a federal racketeering trial and testified that officers lied in an affidavit for a search warrant for Jones’ home in May 2015.

Jones pleaded guilty in 2016 and was serving a six-year sentence.

During the raid, police found drugs and firearms, and Jones admitted to possessing them. But prosecutors said in court papers this week that they had “recently learned that false information may have been knowingly included in the state search warrant affidavit. This information was material to the probable cause that supported the issuance of the warrant.”

Ward testified that he and Detective Marcus Taylor, who is on trial, conducted a “trash run” on Jones’ home, a legal tactic that they hoped would lead to finding materials that could justify a search warrant. They found marijuana residue, he said, but later realized they had pulled someone else’s trash.

Ward said the officers went forward with a warrant that said the drug residue had been found in Jones’ trash anyway.

Ward maintained that he had observed Jones conduct hand-to-hand drug transactions, and had received information that Jones was a large-scale dealer.

“The Government believes that on the particular facts of this case it is appropriate to have the Defendant’s conviction and sentence vacated,” the joint motion says.

Though Ward is charged with robberies dating to 2014, he testified Thursday that he lied as a police officer for “the better part of a decade.”

In state court, convictions remain intact for dozens of people charged by Ward over that time period. Prosecutors say they are reviewing cases involving the officers and have dropped or vacated convictions in more than 100 cases involving the eight officers charged in the Gun Trace Task Force case. The public defender’s office says thousands of cases are compromised.

Few of the Gun Trace Task Force officers’ cases were taken to the federal level. But at least four men convicted in the federal court have had their cases overturned or have been released early from prison, and other motions are pending.

They include Umar Burley and Brent Matthews, who say in 2010 masked officers including Sgt. Wayne Jenkins and Det. Sean Suiter surrounded their car, prompting them to flee because they believed they were being robbed. Jenkins pleaded guilty to being involved with planting drugs in Burley’s car after he got into a crash that killed another driver.

Also released from prison was Levar Mullen, who was a Safe Streets anti-violence worker arrested for gun possession by Jenkins and Evodio Hendrix, another officer who has pleaded guilty in the federal racketeering case.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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