A former Baltimore Police officer who robbed people for the better part of a decade was ordered Tuesday to serve 12 years in prison, the final sentence handed down against members of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force.
Wearing an orange jail-issue uniform, Jemell Rayam apologized to city residents and the law enforcement community, saying he was raised to know better and had tried to make things right after getting caught. He cooperated extensively, admitting to additional crimes and helping lead to the indictment of at least four co-conspirators.
“I did take an oath to protect and serve, and I broke that oath,” Rayam told U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Hines reminded Blake of the breathtaking scope of Rayam’s crimes, which included armed home invasions and drug dealing.
Rayam once gave guns and police uniforms to two friends and had them break into a home where Rayam knew $20,000 was inside. He also stuck a gun in a woman’s face during another break-in in which guns, drugs, cash and jewelry were taken.
Hines called Rayam’s crimes an “egregious, egregious breach of the public trust” that ranked second only behind his one-time supervisor, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, who is serving 25 years in prison.
Rayam’s attorney, Dennis Boyle, had asked for a three-year prison term, arguing that the former detective deserved leniency for “his demonstrated remorse and efforts to correct what he has done.”
Boyle said Tuesday that Rayam’s misconduct might have dated back to when he was a rookie, when a supervisor told him it was OK to omit another supervisor’s name in a police report, and write that he had observed things that he did not personally see.
“Corruption is something that occurs in little pieces and steps along the way,” Boyle told Blake.
Rayam broke down crying as his father, a retired Newark police officer of 25 years, spoke in court, acknowledging his son did wrong but asking the court to consider his positive attributes.
“When I was first met with the decision to be dishonest, I should’ve come to you,” Rayam told his father. “I was ashamed.”
Blake’s sentence followed the recommendation of prosecutors. The sentencing guidelines called for between 15 and 20 years.
A federal wiretap on the phone of Rayam’s longtime partner, Momodu Gondo, helped bring down the elite gun squad, whose members were found to be robbing citizens, lying in sworn paperwork and committing illegal searches. Gondo received 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors also submitted a restitution order against all of the convicted officers, calling for Rayam to pay his victims $79,000. Other officers would be asked to pay more than $200,000 each if Blake approves the order.
Rayam admitted to crimes dating back to 2009, while working with another detective. The Sun reported that Rayam was investigated for the theft of $11,000 from a man that year. Though Rayam failed a lie detector test, he remained on the job and eventually was placed on the Gun Trace Task Force.
Prior to that, in a span of about 20 months, Rayam shot three people, killing one of them. Gondo testified that Rayam told him the fatal shooting of 30-year-old Sean Cannady was unjustified, and that a top-ranking commander had coached the officer on what to tell investigators. Rayam denied the allegation, and no one has been charged with a crime in connection with that case. The city paid a $100,000 settlement to Cannady’s family in 2013.
The wiretap investigation picked up Rayam referring to taking money from people during arrests as a “tax.”
“He won’t say nothing,” Rayam said of the victim.
A large contingent of supporters from New Jersey appeared in the courtroom Tuesday to support Rayam. While his father was a police officer, his mother and siblings are all educators, and they said Rayam was raised in the church. His sister said he had been a mentor to young men.