2nd ex-officer sentenced in drug case

Gun charges lead to 139-year term for man who robbed dealers and resold heroin

June 24, 2006|By MATTHEW DOLAN | MATTHEW DOLAN,SUN REPORTER

Yesterday's outcome for Antonio L. Murray was never in doubt.

Thanks to his conviction on a string of gun possession charges, the former Baltimore police officer knew he faced more than 100 years in prison for robbing drug dealers and arranging the resale of their heroin back on the streets for his own profit.

He also knew that the federal judge in the case thought his mandated punishment was excessive but had to impose the time anyway because the law required it. Murray received a prison sentence of 139 years.

Still, the federal prosecutor rose from his chair to remind the court beforehand how severely Murray's crimes had damaged the Police Department and the city it serves.

Murray's convictions represent a "small segment of what these defendants did every day on the streets," said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Copperthite.

"They disgraced [their] department and they disgraced the city," he said.

Copperthite said a combination of arrogance and pride led Murray and his former partner, William King, to use their badges and guns to terrorize a group of drug users who were intimidated out of their drugs and money.

Murray, according to Copperthite, was the more calculating of the pair, a strongman who "bullied and brutalized people on the street."

In his defense, Murray apologized to his former department and his family for his actions. But ever defiant, the former officer also reiterated that his drug-busting techniques were taught to him by others in the department and trainers from New York City.

In April, a jury convicted King and Murray of shaking down drug dealers for their own profit and found them guilty of more than a dozen federal gun possession crimes that carry stiff, mandatory penalties required by Congress.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz, who sentenced Murray, imposed a 315-year prison sentence on King last week.

Both men were convicted of several counts of robbing drug dealers and users in West Baltimore while wearing their police-issued guns at their sides. The first gun charge carries a mandatory five-year sentence; each subsequent count carries a mandatory 25-year sentence, to be served consecutively.

Their case rocked the Police Department, whose leadership described the officers' actions as anomalies in an otherwise lawful police force.

Motz again criticized the officers yesterday. But he also called their punishment "grossly disproportionate" to the severity of their crimes.

Both officers said they will appeal.

matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

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