Two former Baltimore Police officers sentenced to a combined 454 years in federal prison for shaking down citizens in the early 2000s had their prison terms reduced to 20 years each by a federal judge Monday.
U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang agreed with arguments put forward by attorneys for William King and Antonio Murray earlier this year under the First Step Act, noting that since their convictions in 2006 Congress has passed sentencing reforms that would have led to significantly shorter sentences if the officers were sentenced today.
“Mr. King is grateful to the Court for recognizing that a reduction of his earlier sentence of 315 years was warranted,” said attorney Steve Levin, who filed for the reduction along with Murray’s attorney Andrew C. White. “While 20 years is still a significant term of imprisonment, it provides Mr. King with some hope of once again becoming a productive member of society.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed that the sentences should be reduced, but to 30 years for Murray, and 65 years for King.
“Neither sentence is unreasonable given the offense conduct in this case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Wilkinson wrote.
The officers’ attorneys noted that former Gun Trace Task Force Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, who pleaded guilty to years of robberies and drug dealing, received 25 years in prison in 2018. King’s attorney, Levin, also represented Jenkins.
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Chuang agreed, saying 20 years for King and Murray “roughly corresponds with the type of sentences presently imposed in comparable police corruption cases in this District.”
The First Step Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in 2018, has led to a wave of sentence reductions, particularly in non-violent drug cases where defendants received lengthy sentences.
Prior to the Gun Trace Task Force case, the case of King and Murray was one of the highest-profile Baltimore police corruption cases. The officers, who were assigned to the BPD’s public housing drug unit, were called out in the “Stop Snitching” underground video, with a man on the tape saying the officers looked out for certain drug dealers. A man they shook down went to the FBI, and authorities launched an investigation that found the officers were detaining and robbing drug dealers.
At the time, the officers “maintained that their activities were all in furtherance of legitimate police activity in an effort to develop sources to lead to arrests of drug distributors,” said prosecutors, adding the officers claimed they used their ill-gotten money to pay informants who could help them catch those higher up in the drug gangs.
King later said the tactics were imported by the department’s New York police leadership, and blamed immense pressure to reduce crime as the reason he and some colleagues went bad.
The men were convicted of robbery, extortion, and drug and handgun offenses, which each had penalties that were “stacked” at sentencing. The sentencing judge, J. Frederick Motz, lamented at the time that the sentences were “absolutely disproportionate to the crimes that were committed” but said he had no discretion to depart from the mandatory sentencing laws.
The federal system has no parole, but following the sentence reductions both officers could be released to halfway houses soon, their attorneys said.