Crime In The Name Of The Law
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California September 26, 2001
Crime, in the name of the law
Federal court testimony reveals corruption in the Delta squad, an elite undercover drug team at the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.By ALICIA CALDWELLSt. Petersburg Times,June 18, 2000
BRADENTON -- They prowled the streets of Manatee County, looking for the perfect victims -- poor, troubled people no one would believe.
Then, they robbed them. Beat them. And even bragged about it. When it began to come apart, they hung together and conspired to keep quiet. They saw themselves as above the law. After all, they were the law.
The crimes committed by the Delta squad, an elite drug interdiction team at the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, have trickled out in shocking detail in federal court during the past eight months.
It's a tale of rogue cops who routinely lied on police reports and carried their own stash of crack cocaine to plant if they couldn't find any on the people they wanted to bust.
"They developed their own set of rules and mind-sets about how things should be," said Mark Lipinski, a Bradenton lawyer who represents several Delta squad victims. "They preyed upon people who were basically defenseless."
So far, the toll is jarring: Four Delta squad agents have pleaded guilty to a variety of federal charges and await sentencing. More than 100 charges have been dropped against 67 defendants in cases made by Delta officers. And the federal investigation, according to the lead prosecutor on the case, is continuing.
Among the transgressions detailed in federal plea agreements:
Delta agents got a bogus search warrant for a Manatee County duplex and planted crack cocaine there. A woman visiting the home was arrested. As a result of her felony conviction, she lost custody of her child. Before her encounter with the Delta squad, she had no criminal record. Eventually, her conviction was overturned and her child was returned.
Delta officers conducted an illegal search of a Bradenton motel room and stole $9,000 from a man, who filed a complaint with the Sheriff's Office. Later, deputies planted crack cocaine in the man's car as retaliation for the complaint. ....
The officers brought crack with them on busts. If they didn't find any in the homes or pockets of the people they were trying to arrest, they would plant it. Fabricating cases wasn't the only aim. The agents wanted to use seizure laws to take cars and other property from their victims.
Sometimes the agents would give crack cocaine to people who were helpful to their investigations. ....
"This way of doing things seemed to be a fairly entrenched, okay way of doing things," said Jeffrey Del Fuoco, lead prosecutor on the case from the U.S. Attorney's Office. "It just seems to me that this kind of a network doesn't spring up overnight." ....
Blake Melhuish, a Bradenton lawyer who has represented a Delta victim in criminal matters, said the federal plea agreements are so detailed that they are virtual blueprints for civil lawsuits. ....
"From beginning to end, it's unbelievable," Melhuish said. "I grew up believing the cops were the good guys. We're finding that sometimes they're not."
Del Fuoco said he expects further charges. It's unclear, he said, how far up the chain of command the improprieties go.
"We go where the evidence goes," Del Fuoco said. "The investigation definitely continues."It is because the judicial system has such a high propensity to cover for all police activity, and that both the judicial system and the police benefit financially from the bootie, that it opens fertile grounds for lawless law enforcement such as above. After all, the aspiration of grasping expensive and fancy cars, homes and property is too much for them to resist. In fact, the best place for thieves to work is on the police force, for they can be on the payroll while conducting their crimes, enjoy badge protection, and have a lot of associates.In Hollywood, California a lot of business were being burglarized. It was later discovered that it was the police conducting the burglaries. The story became the subject of establishment cartoons. One newspaper cartoon showed masked burglars peaking around the corner watching police loading stereos and TVs into their squad cars from a business. The caption read, "Oh, shucks, the police beat us to it."Yes, if I were a thief, I'd join the police force. It's time for judicial accountability to break this propensity of encouraging bands of thieves using uniforms and badges to do their dirty work. I have thousands of news articles of police crimes, some even working as hit men on the side.
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