A federal jury has convicted two Baltimore Police detectives for their roles in one of the biggest police corruption scandals in recent memory.
Detectives Daniel T. Hersl, 48, and Marcus R. Taylor, 31, were found guilty of racketeering conspiracy and racketeering. Federal prosecutors said they and other members of the Gun Trace Task Force had acted as “both cops and robbers,” using the power of their badges to steal large sums of money from residents under the guise of police work.
Hersl and Taylor were both acquitted on the count of possession of firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, which carried mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
The convicted officers join six of their former colleagues who previously pleaded guilty in the case, four of whom took the stand at the trial and testified for the government.
Three other men, including a bail bondsman who was supplied drugs by the unit’s supervisor Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, have also pleaded guilty.
Acting Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said in a statement following the verdict that the department is moving to terminate the employment of Hersl and Taylor, who have both been on unpaid leave since their indictment in March. The other six officers have already been terminated from the department.
“We recognize that this indictment and subsequent trial uncovered some of the most egregious and despicable acts ever perpetrated in law enforcement,” De Sousa said.
He also noted the department has created a corruption unit “that will focus, specifically, on this case and the allegations that were made, but were not part of the indictment or prosecution.” During the trial, witnesses — including some of the officers who pleaded guilty in the case — testified to wrongdoing by a dozen other officers who have not been charged.
“Let me make it clear: I have ZERO TOLERANCE for corruption,” De Sousa said in his statement.
During the trial, prosecutors depicted a unit “willing to do whatever it took to lie, cheat and steal.” Hersl was charged with taking part in a robbery in which $20,000 was stolen from a Carroll County home after a man and his wife were detained without having committed a crime. Other officers testified that Hersl was among a group that split up the money at a bar afterward.
Taylor, meanwhile, was accused of taking part in a robbery of more than $100,000, in which police handcuffed a man, took his house keys and broke into a safe in his basement. Prosecutors said Taylor filmed a video in which the officers pretended to break into the safe and find half the amount of money that was originally inside.
Both officers were also charged with taking fraudulent overtime pay. The cooperating defendant officers said members of the unit signed each others’ pay slips and earned overtime for arrests made by other members of the unit. They routinely started their regular shifts late so their working hours would bleed over into overtime pay.
Hersl and Taylor both opted not to take the stand, and their attorneys argued the government had failed to prove the case and relied on questionable witnesses.
Their fellow officers also testified about regularly violating people’s rights, profiling and lying on official paperwork to cover their tracks. Some of the officers maintained that they made legitimate arrests but lied about taking money.
The case prompted the police department to disband plainclothes units and put those officers into uniform, though new Commissioner Darryl DeSousa says he is rethinking that decision. The agency has also said it will implement a finger-print scanning technology for timesheets, and will start ordering random polygraph tests on members of specialized units.
Prosecutors, at last count in early December, said they had dropped or vacated convictions in 125 cases that involved the officers; the public defender’s office says thousands of cases are compromised after some officers admitted to lying and stealing for the past decade. The State’s Attorney’s Office has not provided updated figures.
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