Officer admits he breached police policy

King says he gave informants drugs to sell but insists he's not guilty of corruption


In the end, after almost two days of testimony, the police officer and the prosecutor sparred one more time.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Peters approached the witness stand in Courtroom 5A late yesterday afternoon and stood just feet away. In the chair sat Detective William A. King, charged along with his partner with robbing drug dealers on the streets of West Baltimore.

"Did you have the right to retain drugs and money for personal use?" Peters thundered.

"The money and the drugs were used in an investigation," King shot back. "It was never for personal use."

The question-and-answer session yesterday ended the most dramatic part of the trial, now in its second week. King's testimony was highly unusual in a place where the majority of defendants charged plead guilty. Many defense lawyers advise against letting their clients take the stand for fear of self-incrimination.

But King, who had rebuffed earlier offers for a plea deal, seem determined. His unwavering descriptions of supplying drug dealers with money and illegal drugs riveted the federal courthouse in downtown Baltimore and filled the courtroom with lawyers and law clerks in addition to the officers' families.

When King's testimony was over, his attorney rested his case. An attorney for King's partner, Antonio L. Murray, said the detective is likely to take the stand when the trial resumes in U.S. District Court on Monday.

Under a barrage of skeptical questioning by federal prosecutors, King steadfastly maintained his innocence. He did admit to flagrant breaches of department policy - providing his informants with drugs to sell on the street and accepting money from informants who thought they were sharing the illegal profits with him.

But King, a 13-year veteran and West Baltimore native, insisted that he had been taught these off-the-books and "acceptable" procedures during training from narcotics officers based in New York. Earlier, he said he had employed the same tactics in a separate investigation and his supervisors knew about the way he and others bent the rules.

Relying on testimony from cooperating witnesses and hours of secretly recorded conversations by the FBI, prosecutors charged King and 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 and Murray were arrested by the FBI in May. Attorneys for the officers sought to focus on King's and Murray's work to cultivate sources on the street and use their limited police resources to take down some of the city's most notorious drug dealers.

But prosecutors criticized King for failing to back up his actions by writing up official reports.

"Why didn't you give [informant Antonio] Mosby one of these receipts?" Peters asked King.

King said that he filled out department receipts only for the times he used official funds to pay Mosby and others. Mosby earlier pleaded guilty to a related federal charge and testified against King and Murray in the hopes of gaining a lighter prison sentence.

Defending his practice of seizing drugs from one suspect only to pass on those same narcotics to his own sources to sell on the street, King said: "The more [an informant] interacts with people, the more arrests I get."

The detective said he also lied to his sources, making them think that he was involved in the drug trade when he was only pumping them for more information about high-level dealers.

King also said the other rules in the department had been bent or broken before, including a gun-interdiction strategy that allowed police officers to let drug suspects go if they gave police a weapon.

Department officials testified earlier that letting informants keep drugs would never be allowed.

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