Opening statements are expected Tuesday in the case against a former Philadelphia police officer in U.S. District Court in Maryland on charges that he sold drugs with members of the corrupt Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force.
Eric Snell, who was a Baltimore officer from 2005 to 2008 and joined the Philadelphia force in 2014, has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine.
Prosecutors have said in court documents that Snell “abused his power as a police officer by engaging in an interstate drug trafficking scheme where drugs were seized by officers in Baltimore and redistributed back on the streets of Philadelphia.”
Snell is accused of conspiring with Det. Jemell Rayam, a gun unit member who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and became a government cooperator. Snell allegedly arranged to sell the drugs, then shared the cash with Rayam.
Snell told arresting officers last year that he and Rayam gambled together, and that money he deposited into Rayam’s account was a loan.
Eight officers were convicted in the Gun Trace Task Force case, which revealed widespread misconduct by the unit’s officers. Cooperating officers admitted to casually lying on court paperwork, violating people's rights and stealing large sums of cash. Six officers have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven to 25 years.
Rayam and his longtime partner, Det. Momodu Gondo, who also pleaded guilty, have not yet been sentenced and are expected to testify at Snell’s trial.
Snell’s indictment alleges that Rayam and other members of the Gun Trace Task Force found a half-kilogram of cocaine after chasing a man near Mondawmin Mall on Oct. 3, 2016. “However, only a small amount of the cocaine was eventually submitted as evidence at BPD,” prosecutors wrote, and they say Rayam sold the drugs to Snell.
Body camera footage recorded after the chase and obtained by The Baltimore Sun shows the gun unit officers discussing the bust.
“Just like last time. There's a half key [kilogram] here. We can get big s---,” Sgt. Wayne Jenkins says on the tape. “This guy's big money. We gotta do the right thing, do all of our homework.”
Though some of the drugs were recovered, the officers didn’t file charges against the man. Contacted by The Sun, the man declined to be interviewed about the experience.
Prosecutors say they have text messages showing Snell and Rayam allegedly discussing the transaction, as well as historical cell phone tower location data corroborating a meeting between the the pair in Philadelphia.
New text messages included in the court file by prosecutors over the weekend also include discussion with a woman prosecutors identify as Ayesha Hood, who at the time was a Baltimore police officer. Rayam tells her Snell had caused him trouble by “keeping his part b4 I got [mine] so I’m left waiting.”
“Okay well you have to collect more up front,” responds Hood, who has not been charged with or accused of a crime.
“Rite [sic]. He [messed] up the $,” Rayam says to her.
Hood resigned from the police force on Aug. 2, a Baltimore Police spokesman said. Reached by phone, Hood declined to comment.
As they’re texting, Jenkins sends urgent messages to Rayam saying he’s going out of town and needs to meet with Rayam.
“How we looking for tomorrow,” Rayam then texts Snell. “My Serg calling me like crazy. It's getting annoying.”
Jenkins, who was in charge of supervising the officers, admitted in his guilty plea to years of stealing drugs and re-selling them on the streets. He received the longest sentence of the group.
A search of Snell’s home after his arrest yielded cocaine and razor blades in a pill bottle, as well as an “arsenal” of unregistered firearms including two assault rifles.
Philadelphia police said Snell was fired “some time ago” after his arrest.
In Maryland, state law prevents a police officer from being fired until after they have been convicted of a crime or found guilty during an internal disciplinary process. Baltimore police do not proceed on the internal discipline case until criminal charges are resolved.