A federal judge refused yesterday to delay the trial of two Baltimore police officers charged with shaking down drug dealers, rejecting the argument that their attorneys need more time to prepare their cases.
"This trial date has been set for too long," U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz said.
The two officers, Antonio L. Murray, 35, and William A. King, 36, were indicted in U.S. District Court in Baltimore in May. The trial is set to begin March 14 and is expected to last about three weeks.
In January, Russell A. Neverdon Sr. became Murray's latest attorney, the police officer's fourth lawyer since his arrest.
Murray "believes that I would best suit his interests," Neverdon told the judge, adding that Murray's previous attorneys had pushed the idea of pleading guilty but that Murray wanted to take the case to trial.
Neverdon and King's attorney, Edward Smith Jr., also argued that a trial delay was necessary for them to sift through the "avalanche of information" assembled by prosecutors.
But Motz ruled that examining the discovery material and the introduction of a new lawyer in the case were not sufficient reasons to grant a postponement.
Before arresting King and Murray, federal authorities led a wiretap investigation into the pair, gathering evidence that they say shows the officers were forcing drug dealers to give them money and drugs. Prosecutors said that King and Murray then resold the drugs on the street.
The officers' names are mentioned on the Stop Snitching DVD, a video that circulated on the street and warned against cooperating with police.
Antonio Mosby, a man who prosecutors say was a lookout for King and Murray, has pleaded guilty to narcotics charges in federal court and has promised to testify against the officers.
With Mosby as a spotter, King and Murray pulled elderly and female drug users off the streets and into their department-issue Chevrolet Lumina, authorities said in court documents. There, the officers threatened them with violence and arrest, and then robbed them of their cash and drugs, which King and Murray later sold, prosecutors said in the documents.
King, of Baltimore, and Murray, of Abingdon, each joined the city Police Department in 1992 and last worked in its public housing crime unit. They have been suspended by the department and have remained in federal custody since their arrests.