BALTIMORE (AP) — Jury selection began Monday in the federal trial of a fired Philadelphia police officer charged in connection with a Baltimore corruption case that’s one of the worst U.S. police scandals in recent memory.
Eric Snell was a Baltimore officer from 2005 to 2008 before joining the Philadelphia Police Department four years ago. He has pleaded not guilty to a count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine. Late last year, he became the ninth law enforcement agent indicted in the federal investigation, eight months after most members of Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force unit were indicted.
Snell went through police training with disgraced Baltimore detective Jemell Rayam, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and cooperated with the government. Rayam was one of four former detectives who testified that their Gun Trace Task Force unit was made up of uniformed criminals who broke into homes, stole cash, resold looted narcotics and lied under oath to cover their tracks.
Prosecutors allege Snell conspired with his brother and his old police academy buddy to sell narcotics. They argue that the conspirators’ goal “was to obtain and sell heroin and cocaine” that had been “obtained or seized by members” of the Baltimore Police Department.
In October 2016, Rayam and other Baltimore officers chased a driver who threw 9 ounces of cocaine out of his car’s window, court documents say. Authorities said one of his colleagues told Rayam to sell the drugs instead of putting it into a police evidence room. Rayam, Snell and Snell’s brother later met at Snell’s home in Philadelphia to plan the sale of the narcotics, according to authorities.
Snell told arresting officers last year that he and Rayam gambled together, and money deposited into Rayam’s account was actually just a loan.
After Rayam was arrested, prosecutors said Snell spoke with him on a lockup’s recorded line and denied that his brother had told anybody about their alleged drug trafficking. Snell told Rayam that he would keep an eye on Rayam’s children; Rayam took that to be a threat, according to the indictment.
Opening statements are expected to begin Tuesday. Rayam and disgraced ex-detective Momodu Gondo are expected to testify on behalf of the government.
Eight officers in the Gun Trace Task Force have been convicted; six have been sentenced to prison terms. Rayam and Gondo are the only ex-officers in Baltimore who have not been sentenced.
Snell’s trial is far from the only unfinished business in the Baltimore police scandal.
Earlier this month, an internal affairs commander told Baltimore’s City Council that seven police officers were under internal investigation in connection with revelations from the Gun Trace Task Force trial earlier this year. Over the summer, one police officer in Baltimore County, a suburban county ringing the city of Baltimore, left the police and another was suspended amid an investigation into claims made against them in the corruption trial.
And a fact-finding panel led by a retired U.S. judge is leading a Maryland commission tasked with examining how the group of corrupt Baltimore officers were allowed to run rampant for years before federal investigators brought them down.
Information from: The Baltimore Sun, http://www.baltimoresun.com
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