Ex-police officer sentenced in Baltimore racketeering case

BALTIMORE (AP) — A fired Philadelphia police officer who led a double life as a criminal was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison as part of a Baltimore racketeering case that exposed one of the worst U.S. police corruption scandals in recent memory.

Eric Snell had pleaded guilty three days into his trial on charges that he conspired to sell drugs with members of a rogue Baltimore police unit called the Gun Trace Task Force, a plainclothes squad that resold looted narcotics, conducted robberies and falsified evidence.

“Prosecuting law enforcement officers is painful but necessary if we are to restore the public’s trust in our justice system. No one is above the law,” Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said in a statement after Snell’s sentencing.

Snell was an officer in Baltimore from 2005 to 2008 before joining the Philadelphia Police Department. He went through police training with disgraced Baltimore Detective Jemell Rayam, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and testified on behalf of the government. The two had become buddies in the Baltimore police academy and kept in contact after Snell joined the Philadelphia force in 2014.

As part of his guilty plea in the far-reaching federal investigation, Snell admitted that from at least October 2016 through late June 2017 he conspired with Rayam and others to sell heroin and cocaine seized by Baltimore police officers.

In October 2016, Rayam and other Baltimore officers chased a driver who threw 9 ounces (255 grams) 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.

When Snell was arrested in late 2017 at his Philadelphia home, he became the ninth sworn officer indicted in the Gun Trace Task Force investigation.

Snell’s sentencing is far from the only unfinished business in the Baltimore police scandal.

With no public accounting yet offered by Baltimore police or City Hall, a state commission has been exploring how deep the rot might actually go. Among other things, the fact-finding panel led by a retired U.S. judge is tasked with examining how the group of rogue Baltimore officers was allowed to run rampant for years in the city before being brought down by federal investigators.

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