Several admitted drug dealers with federal immunity deals testified against two former members of the Baltimore Police Department’s disbanded Gun Trace Task Force officers this week.
Thedealers took to the stand on Tuesday and Wednesday, describing theft, intimidation and extortion by the officers, Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor.
Hersl and Taylor are among eight former members of the GTTF accused of racketeering and robbery charges.
The six others pleaded guilty to the charges, with four agreeing to take the stand to help convict their former partners.
The first drug dealer to take the stand on Tuesday was Dennis Armstrong, who says officers stopped him trying to leave a storage container where he stored cocaine.
He said officers stole $8,000 from him and reported seizing just $2,800 – secretly pocketing the rest. He said they also destroyed his storage unit and stole two kilograms of cocaine.
Armstrong says he never reported the missing drugs because he feared he would face additional jail time.
The rest of the dealers took the stand on Wednesday.
Sergio Summerville, a self-confessed small-time drug dealer, described a similar incident in September 2016, when he too was stopped by members of the GTTF while leaving the storage unit where he was living.
He said one of the officers claimed to be a member of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and that they had a warrant to search his unit. Both turned out to be false.
‘They didn’t even know my name, after we talked for awhile,’ Summerville said. ‘I said, ‘If you have a warrant and know everything, why are you asking my name?”
Nonetheless, the officers raided his storage unit and took the $4,800 he had hidden in a sock. He says the officers appeared to be disappointed by the amount. They then left without arresting him.
‘They came at me like a gang or something,’ Summerville said.
Summerville said the officers threatened to arrest him if he didn’t continue to make them regular payments – ‘like an extortion attempt’.
‘For my freedom, I’d have to give him a certain amount every week,’ Summerville said.
The 38-year-old said he was nervous about cooperating with the FBI, but felt compelled to bring the crooked cops to justice.
‘What they did wasn’t right,’ he said. ‘I just want to put this behind me.’
Another man who testified on Wednesday said he had put his life of dealing drugs behind him when he was targeted by the GTTF.
Ronald Hamilton says he was shopping for blinds at Home Depot with his wife in July 2016 when officers cornered him and asked ‘Where the money at?’
Hamilton says one of the cops, Jemell Rayam, took $3,400 out of his pocket before slipping on his police vest.
He then took Hamilton and his wife back to the police station where Sgt. Wayne Jenkins pretended to be a federal prosecutor and accused Hamilton of making three drug deals.
‘That’s a lie,’ Hamilton said he told them.
The officers then took the couple back to their $500,000 home in Carroll County and searched the house looking for drugs and cash.
They didn’t find anything illegal but did find $75,000 in cash stored in heat-sealed bags. The officers pocketed $25,000 and left without arresting Hamilton.
Hamilton snapped in court when attorneys for the cops tried to insinuate that he couldn’t have afforded such an expensive house shortly after leaving prison without continuing to deal drugs.
He said that he had made his money all legally by selling cars, working at an assisted living facility, managing rental properties and gambling.
‘This right here destroyed my whole f****** family!’ he yelled. ‘Everybody’s life is destroyed because of this. I’m in a divorce process because of this. … My kids are afraid to go in the house!’
The judge had to order Hamilton to calm down.
Hamilton says he believes he was targeted by the officers because they saw him gambling large amounts of money at a casino.
Oreese Stevenson is another former dealer who made a deal with prosecutors to testify during the trial.
He said he was about to sell drugs from his car when Taylor arrested him.
Officers then stole his keys and searched his home, finding 10 kilos of cocaine and $200-$300,000 dollars.
He says officers stole about $100,000 of the cash and some of the cocaine.
Earlier in the trial, two officers testified that the split the $100,000 and went gambling with the money that night.
Stevenson’s longtime girlfriend Keona Holloway also testified and said the officers took an expensive watch and a bag of clothes.
Holloway said she did not know the drugs and cash were inside the home.
At the beginning of the trial, attorneys for the two cops said the witnesses should not be trusted due to their criminal histories.
Taylor’s lawyer, Jennifer Wicks, told jurors that the witnesses the government will call during the trial have made ‘a career of lying’ to investigators, juries and others. She called for jurors to examine their motivations and biases, particularly the indicted officers cooperating with the government.
‘The evidence will show you couldn’t believe them before, and you can’t believe them now,’ Hinds said, arguing that she believes jurors should find Taylor not guilty of all charges against him.
Hersl’s defense attorney, William Purpura, is not denying that his 48-year-old client took money – which he described as an act that ’embarrassed’ the city and the detective’s family – but that the evidence will show it didn’t rise to charges of robbery or extortion.
‘It was a crime of theft, a crime of the moment,’ Purpura told jurors, asserting Hersl’s 17-year career as a Baltimore officer was dominated by legitimate police work. He claims these thefts took place on a ‘few occasions,’ asserting that federal prosecutors were essentially ‘overcharging’ his client.