Ex-leader of rogue police unit gets 25 years in prison

BALTIMORE (AP) — A former leader of a corrupt Baltimore police unit has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake handed down the punishment Thursday to 37-year-old former Gun Trace Task Force leader Sgt. Wayne Earl Jenkins of Middle River, Maryland.

Jenkins pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges including racketeering, robbery and falsifying records. Among a long list of other crimes, he admitted to giving stolen drugs to an associate who resold them, enriching both men.

Jenkins was “putting poison into our community when he should have been protecting our community from that poison,” Judge Blake said.

His defense attorney, Steve Levin, said Jenkins is “racked with remorse.”

Jenkins’ voice choked with emotion while he stood and addressed the packed gallery before receiving his sentence. Some in the gallery cried as he spoke.

“I’ve tarnished the badge,” Jenkins said through tears.

He also apologized to Umar Burley, who he was pursuing when Burley crashed into another car, killing 86-year-old Elbert Davis, Sr. Heroin was planted in Burley’s car after the crash. In Jenkins’ plea agreement, he admitted to knowing about the planted drugs.

He also spoke directly to Davis’ family members.

“From the bottom of my heart, I wish I could take that day back and not have stopped that vehicle,” Jenkins said.

Shirley Johnson, Davis’ daughter, also spoke during the hearing. “Our family’s hearts are broken. We’ll never be the same again,” she said.

Jenkins is the second member of the disbanded task force to be sentenced. He led another specialized unit before joining the gun task force.

U.S. prosecutor Leo Wise said Jenkins ran both police units “like a criminal gang” and “the harm that he did is immeasurable.”

After Blake handed down the sentence, Jenkins walked out of the court in handcuffs with his head down.

In his plea agreement, Jenkins admitted to seven separate robberies that took place over a span of several years. Some took place before he was part of the gun task force. Jenkins robbed hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash as well as drugs including cocaine and heroin from people he had detained or arrested.

In one robbery, Jenkins and other members of the gun task force stole more than $200,000 and two kilograms of cocaine.

Jenkins also admitted to stealing prescription medicines that had been looted in the aftermath of the riots that rocked Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015.

He wrote false reports that concealed the fact that he and other members of gun task force had stolen cash, drugs and other property, filed fraudulent overtime reports and broke into homes.

On Thursday, Blake also sentenced former gun task force officer Marcus Roosevelt Taylor to 18 years in prison.

In May, Blake sentenced former Gun Trace Task Force leader Sgt. Thomas Allers to 15 years in prison. Allers had also been a leader of the corrupt unit and was its first former member to be sentenced.

Two former officers who were also part of the corrupt task force are scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

While the rogue officers had admitted to lying for years to cover their tracks, it’s an open question as to whether the force’s command structure had enough integrity to expose them. It was a federal investigation that brought them down.

Scores of cases involving the officers have been dropped and many fear criminals will go free.

David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who researches police behavior, called this week’s sentencings a “low point” for the police department and the city.

“This is not only about finding and getting rid of some officers who were acting like criminals. It’s about figuring out how the organization went wrong enough to allow them to operate for a long time and to be earning big applause from highers-up,” Harris said.