The attorney for former Gun Trace Task Force member Detective Maurice Ward is arguing for a lower prison term for his client at sentencing this week.
A convicted former Gun Trace Task Force member’s cooperation with the government “continues to this day,” his defense attorney wrote in a new court filing, the latest indication that federal authorities continue to probe corruption within the Baltimore Police Department.
The attorney for former Detective Maurice Ward is arguing for a lower prison term for his client at sentencing this week, pointing to his “extraordinary degree” of cooperation with the government. Ward has sat down with the government for a combined 20 hours, the attorney said.
“Mr. Ward’s cooperation in this case — which continues to this day — has been exceptional in its timing, nature, extent and value, and it merits a significant reduction in the sentence that would otherwise be imposed,” defense attorney Paul Enzinna wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed last week.
Ward is one of four convicted officers set to be sentenced over two days this week. Former Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, who pleaded guilty and was the leader of the unit, and former Det. Marcus Taylor, who was convicted at trial, will be sentenced Thursday. Ward and former Det. Evodio Hendrix, who both pleaded guilty and testified against fellow officers, will be sentenced Friday.
Attorney Steve Levin wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court late Thursday that the leader of the police department’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force “climbed the ladder of success through hard work,” but “threw it all away by engaging in activity which he recognizes was wrong."
Federal prosecutors have said they are continuing to probe misconduct allegations related to the Gun Trace Task Force case, which led to the convictions of eight officers who were members of the squad. A former Baltimore officer who became a Philadelphia police officer is pending trial in the fall.
Though other officers were named as having taken part in misconduct, no other officers have been charged in connection with the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo Wise and Derek Hines, the Gun Trace Task Force prosecutors, are assigned to the case against former police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa on charges he failed to file income taxes for three years. But there has been no indication that the charges are connected to the Gun Trace Task Force investigation.
Meanwhile, sentencing dates have not yet been scheduled for three other cooperators: convicted former Detectives Momodu Gondo and Jemell Rayam, and former bail bondsman Donald Stepp, who said he helped Jenkins resell stolen drugs. All three provided extensive information to the government and testified in the case.
Attorney Donald C. Wright, who is not involved in the Gun Trace Task Force cases, said the unscheduled sentencing dates could indicate that the government still needs testimony or other cooperation from those defendants.
“They could be more involved in ongoing stuff, and they haven’t worked out an agreement yet about what the value of that is, or there’s stuff ongoing they need them for, and need to flesh it out more to see what the actual value is going to be,” Wright said.
But, he said, the fact that other defendants are being sentenced doesn’t mean they could not still be called upon by the government. He said they could have agreements that require them to testify consistently with statements they’ve already made, and could face penalties such as obstruction-of-justice charges if they refuse.
Ward testified earlier this year that he was called by Jenkins out of the blue and asked to join Jenkins’ previous plainclothes drug and gun unit, with the promise of day shifts and lots of overtime pay.
“Maurice soon became aware of the squad’s illegal activities,” Enzinna wrote. “He saw drugs being seized and not submitted as evidence, and heard Jenkins on the phone talking about selling seized drugs. Jenkins talked about stealing from drug dealers and about someone who could get new VINs for seized motorbikes so they could be sold on Craigs List.”
Enzinna said Ward “at first refused to participate, and even asked for a transfer, which Jenkins refused.”
“Unfortunately, Maurice did not do what he now knows he should have — reported the activity and put a stop to it,” Enzinna wrote. “Instead, whether from fear, greed or a combination of them, Maurice ‘went along to get along.’ ”
He said Ward believed Jenkins “had influential friends in the BPD, and that reporting his conduct would lead to negative consequences.”
Ward testified at trial that he took part in a robbery of a drug dealer that led to a significant haul of cash, then went to Taylor’s home, where the officers split up the money. Ward said his cut was $20,000, but he testified that he felt uneasy about having the money and tossed it into a field near his home.
The sentencing memorandum said Ward was a caretaker for two children with his longtime girlfriend, who is also a police officer.
“Maurice Ward is not a bad man. He is a fundamentally good man, who made a terrible mistake, and committed a crime,” Enzinna wrote.
Wise told U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake at the sentencing hearing last month for Sgt. Thomas Allers that prosecutors viewed Allers and Jenkins on the “high end” of what the convicted officers would receive, and that Ward and Hendrix were on the “low end.” Allers received 15 years in prison, and prosecutors are asking for 30 years for Jenkins.
Ward’s sentencing guidelines call for him to receive about five years or more, though his attorney said the pre-sentence investigation proposes that he receive between 97 and 121 months, or between eight and 10 years.