Informer says law enforcer turned into a lawbreaker

Dealer who tipped FBI testifies that city officer shared drug profits

March 16, 2006|By MATTHEW DOLAN | MATTHEW DOLAN,SUN REPORTER

At 15, he started "slinging" heroin on the streets of West Baltimore. By 18, he was an underboss, second in command of his own drug-dealing crew. But when his new baby arrived and plans for college percolated in his head, Davon Mayer told a federal jury yesterday, it was time to get "out of the game."

The decision, according to Mayer, meant he would call federal officials and turn in his most unusual partner in crime: Baltimore police Detective William A. King.

Mayer's tip to the FBI in November 2004 sparked one of the most extensive surveillance operations of city police activities in recent Baltimore history. The FBI's seven-month wiretap probe led to the May 2005 arrests of King and his partner, Detective Antonio L. Murray.

In the 33-count indictment that followed, the officers are accused of conspiring to rob and extort cocaine, heroin and marijuana - as well as drug-related proceeds - from suspects they hunted down on city streets. Their trial in U.S. District Court started Tuesday.

As one of the prosecution's first witnesses, Mayer provided a vivid picture of the secret world of drug dealing, where a "pitcher," or dealer, could be arrested by police one day and become an informant for them the next.

"If I tell him about drugs and stuff, he'd let me keep some," Mayer told jurors about the alleged arrangement with King.

Mayer spoke matter-of-factly of once telling King about which houses held large caches of heroin. But Mayer expressed no regret when he talked about calling the FBI on King.

The detective and the drug dealer met when King arrested Mayer sometime in 2003, Mayer said. King allowed Mayer to go if he helped King in his police work, according to Mayer.

But the work soon devolved into sharing Mayer's illegal drug profits, according to Mayer. King also gave Mayer cash to invest in drug deals and then split the proceeds between them, Mayer told the federal jury.

"I really didn't want to be involved in it anymore," Mayer said yesterday, adding that his collaboration with King required almost daily drug dealing. "Money is a small thing."

To get to King, the FBI set up an elaborate sting operation, according to court testimony yesterday.

FBI Special Agent Richard J. Wolf told jurors he persuaded Mayer to set up King with a series of fake drug deals. The first involved Mayer asking King to pick up a McDonald's bag full of crack cocaine. Mayer was to tell King that he knew the crack was stashed in an alley in the 900 block of Bennett Place. In reality, the bag was planted by the FBI and the "crack" was macadamia nuts stuffed inside 137 vials, Wolf said.

After King dug the bag out from under a pile of leaves in the alley, he gave it to Mayer, who promised to sell it on the streets, according to testimony. Mayer said he then returned the proceeds from the fake drug deals to King.

"I could kind of see that he was impressed by the money," Mayer said.

Each part of the transaction was recorded, according to Wolf. At first, Wolf and other FBI agents sat in their car with Mayer as he telephoned King. As the investigation progressed, Wolf said, agents taught Mayer how to record his conversations without their help.

King and Mayer also met to exchange money and drugs, Wolf said. When they did, Mayer wore a body wire, a 1 1/2 -inch-by-1 1/2 -inch digital recorder stuffed in his pocket.

Most of the meetings, according to Wolf, took place in and around a police office in the 300 block of Martin Luther King Blvd. A nearby Rite Aid parking lot was often used, and once, Mayer handed $750 in marked bills to King in the police office's bathroom, according to Wolf's testimony.

Jurors listened as prosecutors played the recorded conversations, large parts of which were unintelligible to the courtroom gallery. Prosecutors provided the judge and jury with transcripts of the conversations but declined to release them publicly yesterday, saying they were not evidence in the case.

According to earlier court proceedings, the FBI eventually used wiretaps on King's and Murray's cellular phones and microphones and global-positioning trackers planted in their department-issued Chevrolet Lumina to track their conversations and movements. Agents watched the officers when they rounded up suspects and held them in their car, according to the indictment. Then they used the threat of force, arrest and prosecution as their enforcement tools, the indictment says.

As recently as April 15, King and Murray detained a man and a woman for drug dealing and robbed them of their drugs and money without arresting them, according to the indictment.

Federal prosecutors said the defendants split the proceeds from the robberies and sold the drugs they seized.

But defense attorneys attempted yesterday to establish that King and Murray might have been trying to use informants such as Mayer as a legitimate means of busting higher-level drug dealers.

"So [King] was looking for information that would have led him to the higher-ups?" defense attorney Edward Smith Jr. asked another informant, Harvey Mickey, who also testified yesterday.

"Yeah, you could say that," Mickey replied.

Mickey also conceded to defense attorneys that King and Murray had reputations in West Baltimore for busting drug dealers.

"When you saw them coming," Mickey testified of the narcotics detectives, "you go in the opposite direction."

matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

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