Three rogue Chicago police officers who robbed drug dealers of cash and narcotics were sentenced to lengthy prison terms Thursday by a federal judge who said the misconduct left him "at a total loss."
U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman appeared most disturbed that the officers resold the stolen drugs, putting "lethal poison" back onto streets that they had sworn to serve and protect.
"You and your merry band essentially raped and plundered entire areas," said the judge, noting the robberies by the plainclothes tactical officers in the Englewood District took place in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
The ring damaged the reputations of good cops and sullied the entire legal system in neighborhoods where trust of the police already may have been at its thinnest, the judge said.
"People see and hear what goes on in these courtrooms, and the next time they look at a police officer, they see you," Guzman said.
The judge sentenced Broderick Jones, 36, the alleged ringleader, to 25 years in prison; Darek Haynes, 37, to 19 years; and Eural Black, 44, the only officer to take his case to trial, to 40 years, the statutory minimum he could receive under the law.
Five officers in all were indicted in 2005 for robbing dealers while on-duty after being tipped to drug deals about to go down. The officers wore their stars and body armor and often tried to make the "rip-offs" appear to be legitimate traffic stops.
One drug dealer, Brent Terry, 36, was also sentenced Thursday to more than 20 years for helping target dealers for Jones.
Assistant U.S. Atty. John Lausch asked the court for stiff sentences to deter other officers from following the same corrupt path. Most street cops are good and do the job with dignity, he said, calling the case "a punch in the face" to every member of the department.
Two other members of the ring, Corey Flagg and Erik Johnson, testified against Black after pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate. Johnson was sentenced last fall to 6 years in prison, while Flagg is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.
Jones, Haynes and Black all appealed to the judge Thursday for leniency, calling family members and friends to the stand to testify about their character in the years leading up to the case. Jones testified about his time in the Navy when he worked as a jet mechanic on an aircraft carrier during Desert Storm. His attorney, Rick Halprin, asked the court to limit the sentence to 15 years in prison.
"My mother raised me to be a hard worker, honest," said Jones, a tall, beefy man in an orange prison jumpsuit. "I learned responsibility at an early age."
"Basically, I'm in a situation because of greed. I'm not a bad guy."
Haynes called police work his passion. He apologized to the city and credited Chicago police officers killed in the line of duty for "passing on the baton of justice."
"I have dropped that baton," he said.
Black shook his head in disbelief at times as he received his 40-year sentence. A jury convicted him of two drug-related robberies while he was armed. The conviction on a second count mandated a minimum 25-year sentence to run consecutive to all the other time Black received.
Other officers pleaded guilty to a single drug-related robbery with a gun.
Black wiped an eye and rubbed his face as his 18-year-old daughter, Madison, a college student, testified.
"He's the best person in the world to me," she said. "He's my best friend."
Black's attorney, Steven Hunter, argued that Black believed the traffic stops were legitimate.
Black apologized and said he was disgusted that his name would forever be synonymous with police corruption in the Englewood neighborhood.
"I hate hearing it," said Black, throwing papers on the defense table. "I was not a dirty cop."
But Guzman said the evidence at the trial was overwhelming. He recalled how on some of the undercover tapes Black asked repeatedly for Jones to give him a call to go out on the bogus stings.
Parents everywhere tell their children to contact police if they are ever in trouble, the judge noted. But that could change if parents heard the tapes of the officers in the case, he said.
"My guess is they would cease saying that," Guzman said.
Black's 40-year sentence seemed extreme to Hunter. The attorney's voice quivered with emotion as he conceded his research showed no way for Black to avoid the 40-year minimum sentence required by statute. Hunter called the sentence shocking.
Guzman said his hands were tied, but he still was not looking to be unnecessarily cruel.
"You've done that to yourself," he told Black.
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