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April 3, 2005 - The Washington Times (DC)

Ex-Policeman Found Guilty

By Hugh Aynesworth, Washington Times

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

DALLAS -- The former police officer most closely involved in the city's fake-drug scandal has been convicted of lying to his superiors and a judge after a three-week trial.

Former Cpl. Mark Delapaz was stunned as the jury returned in only an hour Thursday with the guilty verdict. The sentencing phase of the trial began Friday. Delapaz could get probation to 10 years in prison.

More than two dozen people -- most of them Mexican-Americans -- were falsely accused by Delapaz and his narcotics crew and spent months in jail before it was established that the purported cocaine confiscated in the raids was actually gypsum or billiard chalk.

Special prosecutor Dan Hagood convinced jurors that Delapaz knew that his chief informant, Enrique Alonso, was crooked long before he stopped working with him and that he lied to a judge to obtain a questionable arrest warrant in order to continue the drug stings.

The drug arrests were highly publicized, and Delapaz and his team received public praise.

In 2001 alone, Delapaz purportedly paid Mr. Alonso more than $200,000 in department cash to set up drug stings.

Mr. Hagood introduced phone records that showed that Delapaz and the informant talked more than 240 times in October 2001 and suggested that the large amount of cash, haphazardly accounted for, created "a tremendous incentive for mischief."

The crux of the prosecution focused on Delapaz's sworn statement to a district judge in 2001 that he believed his informant and that Mr. Alonso had proved reliable on "each and every occasion in the past." The warrant was granted, setting up another case of planted, false evidence against an innocent man. By that time, Delapaz knew that six huge drug seizures made with Mr. Alonso's help had been found to contain no illegal drugs.

The defense painted a picture of an officer duped by greedy informants and hampered by shoddy departmental procedures and a listless district attorney's office that did not require lab tests of drugs before indictment.

Testimony revealed, however, that Delapaz disregarded orders from his superiors to stop using Mr. Alonso as an informant.

Delapaz's attorney, Paul Coggins, said he could not see how the jury could convict his client.

"We still think he's innocent," he said.

Several of those falsely arrested watched much of the trial and were happy with the outcome.

Jaime Siguenza, who was wrongly jailed for about five months, said he was glad that Delapaz was found guilty, but wasn't completely pleased.

"He really needs to go to jail to pay for what he did," Mr. Siguenza said. "Right now he's walking out of here and going home."

The judge allowed Delapaz to remain free on bail while awaiting sentencing.

Three other former officers and five informants also have been charged with varying degrees of wrongdoing in the case.

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