Case against officers rests on wiretaps

Prosecutors say calls show drug dealing, police corruption

March 26, 2006|By MATTHEW DOLAN | MATTHEW DOLAN,SUN REPORTER

The indicted police officers sit in federal court every day but have never spoken to the men and women who will decide their fates.

For two weeks, detectives William A. King and Antonio L. Murray have watched silently as jurors absorbed hour upon hour of the officers' conversations that were secretly recorded by the FBI.

Federal prosecutors say wiretaps show how King and Murray masterminded an illegal drug-dealing operation, nicknamed "grinding," that targeted old and addled addicts in West Baltimore. Often, according to the tapes, the officers "grinded" before or after their regular shifts, calling it their real work.

"You should have been like, yo, you know how King is," King told one man he stopped for drug dealing in March last year and later robbed, according to authorities. "He took my [expletive] drugs and he took my money, told me to get the [expletive] out of here."

This week, their attorneys say, King and Murray will have a chance to fight back when they take the witness stand.

But to do so, the officers will need to overcome a withering picture of police corruption assembled by prosecutors that draws from the officers' informants who became federal witnesses, gel capsules full of heroin seized from the officers' car and bank records showing unusually large cash deposits - a trademark of a drug dealer, according to prosecutors.

The strength of the government's case has been the hundreds, if not thousands, of the officers' conversations. They reveal moments both mundane and monstrous, federal prosecutors say.

One call between the partners Feb. 17, 2005, was fairly typical. It captured both staccato banter between them and the shorthand references that federal agents said the officers used to complete their drug deals. A partial transcript said:

Murray: That was like 60 some pieces, wasn't it?

King: That [expletive] sitting in the car somewhere. Middle console.

Murray: It's in the brown paper bag. Don't leave it in there.

King: I don't know what you're talking about.

Murray: Yo, we went in the house, you found like you said it was like 60 pieces. It was in a brown paper bag. Where is it?

King: I told you I put everything in that middle console.

The conversations are not evidence of a criminal enterprise, the officer's lawyers argue. Instead, attorneys Edward Smith Jr. and Russell A. Neverdon Sr. said that the snippets are raw talk from undercover officers simply doing their job - a demanding one that required them to bend the rules and adopt new, aggressive tactics, some taught by policing experts from New York.

But King and Murray were more than aggressive, according to prosecutors. For more than six months before their arrests in May 2005, the officers are accused of rounding up drug suspects and holding them in cars, robbing and threatening them with force, arrest and prosecution.

Later, the two police officers and their lookout, Antonio Mosby, split the proceeds from the robberies and sold the drugs they seized for profit, according to court testimony.

For more than a decade, King and Murray followed remarkably similar paths. They both graduated from high school in Baltimore and joined the city Police Department in 1992. They spent time in the Central District, the Criminal Intelligence Section and a specialized unit that swarmed over high-crime areas in the city.

In December 2004, when the Police Department assumed responsibility for patrolling Baltimore's public housing communities, King and Murray joined the new unit.

However parallel their careers, a review of almost 700 pages of transcripts of the tapes by The Sun shows the officers' different personalities. Murray comes across as high-strung and aggressive. Records show he amassed a large amount of cash in his bank accounts, and part of the tapes deal with his purchase of a new Infiniti.

In contrast, King is laconic. His answers are short and often without detail. He seems to let his guard down a little when talking to Mosby, whom he used to drink with in his off-hours.

The frustration both officers shared about Mosby, an admitted heroin addict, led to one of the trial's more humorous moments when prosecutors played a conversation from Feb. 17, 2005. In it, Murray is convinced that Mosby is trying to con the officers by getting them to front him drugs allegedly stolen without paying for them first.

Murray: What he think, we're super dummies?

King: Yeah.

Murray: Huh?

King: Yep.

Murray: Seriously.

King: Yeah, for real.

The conversation continues, but Murray appears obsessed with idea of "super dummies."

Murray: I'm dumb, [slight laugh] but I ain't no super super dummy.

King appeared to have more affection for Mosby, who returned the feeling. Playful and teasing, the two appeared to box out Murray at times, including one phone call April 8, 2005:

King: During the daytime, but in the morning before we hit Tony [Murray], even if we could, just get, go get stashes yo. You know what I'm sayin'?

Mosby: Yeah, for real yo.

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