Officer pleads guilty to bribery

Internal inquiry showed he took $400 in exchange for skipping defendant's court date

July 28, 2006|By JULIE SCHARPER | JULIE SCHARPER,SUN REPORTER

A former Baltimore police officer who demanded money from a suspect in September in exchange for not appearing at the man's trial pleaded guilty to bribery yesterday but was spared jail time.

Walter Jackson-Hill, 35, resigned from the force Wednesday as a condition of his plea agreement with prosecutors. His lawyer, William R. Buie III, said outside the courtroom that the officer plans to inform the department about other officers who have taken bribes.

Revealing more potential corruption is not a part of Jackson-Hill's plea agreement. "It's a process by which he's actually cleansing himself," Buie said in an interview.

Jackson-Hill received a three-year suspended sentence and three years of probation. The maximum penalty for bribery is 12 years in jail. He will also be required to pay back the $400.

The former officer appeared subdued in Baltimore Circuit Court, wearing a pale green shirt and black pants; he left the courtroom in tears.

On Sept. 11, Jackson-Hill discovered marijuana on Lamar Hayes during a routine traffic stop, prosecutor A. Thomas Krehely said. Jackson-Hill told Hayes that he would have to arrest him because another officer had witnessed the incident, but that he would not appear in court if Hayes paid him $400, Krehely said.

Hayes then used Jackson-Hill's cell phone to call his girlfriend, Anita Foster, and ask her to bring the money to the police officer. Jackson-Hill met with her at Druid Hill Park and accepted the bribe.

Jackson-Hill did not appear at Hayes' trial in December or a rescheduled trial in February. Court records show that he was listed as being on medical leave.

The police department began an internal investigation of the incident in October after Hayes told police he had paid a bribe to Jackson-Hill during an interview with investigators into an unrelated inquiry into police misconduct.

On two occasions in March, Hayes and Foster, working with investigators, secretly recorded conversations with Jackson-Hill in which he admitted to accepting the bribe. Jackson-Hill also said that he would put Hayes on a list of confidential sources who provide key information so that the charges against him would be dropped.

Jackson-Hill then called Foster and told her that he would need an additional $1,000. On March 31, Hayes handed Jackson-Hill $750 in marked bills at a gas station in North Baltimore. Investigators recorded and videotaped the exchange.

When Jackson-Hill returned to the Western District police station, officers searched his car and found the $750 in marked bills.

While many officers miss court dates for legitimate reasons, their absences have a serious effect on Baltimore's courts. Last year, 3,921 cases -- more than 20 percent of all dismissed cases -- were thrown out of Baltimore District Court because officers who were witnesses failed to appear. Court records show that Jackson-Hill missed nine court appearances between October and April, when he was suspended.

Jackson-Hill did not speak in court, except to say that he understood the terms of the plea and the facts of his case. He referred all questions to his lawyer after the trial.

Neither Buie nor the prosecutor said that he knew of any particular reasons why Jackson-Hill wanted the money. "I will say this," Buie said. "They don't pay police officers enough money."

The police department would not comment, Agent Donny Moses, a police spokesman said.

Buie said that Jackson-Hill, a resident of York, Pa., is seeking employment outside law enforcement.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.

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