City detective speaks out at corruption trial


One of two Baltimore narcotics detectives accused of selling illegal drugs testified at his federal trial yesterday that confiscated heroin he gave to a confidential informant was part of an off-the-books, but acceptable, policing technique designed to apprehend some of the city's top drug dealers.

In front of an expectant jury that had before heard the officer's voice only on wiretap recordings, Detective William A. King answered questions from the witness stand for more than four hours. But his calm demeanor turned testy and defensive when prosecutors called his tactics criminal, leading to the most combative moments of the two-week trial.

"I never robbed anybody," King said, leaning forward in his chair, his arms crossed slightly, testifying for the first time. "I gave [an informant] drugs, but in return he gave me the information I needed."

At one point, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz ordered a brief recess because the heated cross-examination of King by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Peters had turned into a shouting match.

"Why didn't you write a report?" Peters asked King, one of many times the prosecutor hammered the officer for failing to document his activity with his sources.

King responded that only some of his drug seizures needed to be reported officially, while others could be channeled to his informants.

King's account offered the first detailed counterpoint to the complex public corruption case presented by federal prosecutors. King's attorney Edward Smith Jr. called two other witnesses - both former city police officers - as part of the first day of testimony from the defense.

Relying on testimony from cooperating witnesses and hours of secretly recorded conversations by the FBI, prosecutors accused King and his partner, Antonio L. Murray, of conspiring to rob and extort cocaine, heroin and marijuana - as well as drug-related proceeds - from suspects they pursued on city streets in late 2004 and early 2005.

King maintained that he never robbed anyone, never sold drugs for money and never brandished his weapon, as charged. He argued that prosecutors misinterpreted his taped conversations. King defended his drug enforcement strategy with informants as a "deceit" to keep them happy and productive.

He agreed that he might have broken department rules and regulations when he gave seized drugs and money to informants Antonio Mosby and Davon Mayer. Mosby earlier pleaded guilty to related drug charges and testified against King.

King called his policing tactic an "acceptable procedure," which had been tacitly approved inside the Police Department under former Commissioner Kevin P. Clark.

Clark had created the department's beefed-up Organized Crime Division - a unit of largely plainclothes officers that focused on undercover drug buys where Murray and King both served - but it was de-emphasized after Clark was fired in November 2004. Mayor Martin O'Malley hired Clark from New York in 2002 to eradicate open-air drug markets.

King said that after he received training from police officials in New York, he changed the way he submitted evidence.

"Sometimes you submit the [seized drugs and money]," he said. "Sometimes you don't."

Several police officials testified earlier in the trial on behalf of the government, saying that under no conditions would an officer be allowed to take seized drugs and hand them over to an informant as a reward.

King said he never shared the profits from the drugs he provided to his informants, and his only reward was information about large stashes of illegal drugs and high-level drug dealers, largely on the city's west side.

His take, King explained, was no take at all. He said he held the money for his informants only because they were too quick to spend their money on drugs, and he was concerned about their welfare.

If he had been a drug dealer, King argued, he would have been wealthier. King said FBI agents found $221 on the detective when they arrested him in May 2005. His bank accounts were almost dry, he owed the IRS money in back taxes and a local jeweler thousands of dollars for purchases still unpaid, according to his testimony and financial records.

King had been presented by prosecutors as a law-breaking police officer who had carved out a side business as a drug dealer. But in his testimony yesterday, King, a West Baltimore native, had his first chance to tell jurors his side.

"I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps," King said yesterday, describing why he wanted to become a city police officer after a stint in the Army. "I wanted to give back to the community I grew up in."

King said the training from police experts in New York was a transformational moment. King said he employed the new tactics during his successful drug busts.

His testimony is expected to continue this morning.

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