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Guilty! 3 Cops, 5 Others In Heroin Conspiracy

Guilty! 3 Cops, 5 Others In Heroin Conspiracy image Guilty! 3 Cops, 5 Others In Heroin Conspiracy image
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'7 want to serve notice that this is only the beginning, that this community wiïï not tolérate narcotics conspiracies such as this one, nor any kind of criminal pólice conspiracy. " - Deputy Chief George Bennett "'We did what had to be done." said a somber-faeed George Bennen as he was leaving the courtróom. "We got the core." The Deputy Chief of Pólice, who has spent five precarious years of his life investigating and pursuing charges of pólice collusion in Detroit's flourisliing narcotics trafile, was ottering comment on the results of his efferts: guilty verdicts against eight men. including tluee of his fellow cops. for crimes that could send them to prison for five to twenty-five years. After more than tlve months of testimony and ar: gument, the lOth Precinct conspiracy trial, the longest and most complex proceeding in the history of Detroit's Recorder's C'ourt. was finally over. And the eight men and four wouien who comprised the jury had finally announced their verdict on the nine Detroit pólice officers and six civilians charged with conspiring to sell narcotics and to obstruct justice. It had taken the jury nearly 40 hours of deliberation over more than four days to reach their decisión by late Saturday aftetnoon, December 20th, and the strain of passing judgment on fifteen of their fellow human beings was etchcd deeply in their weary faces as they filed out of Judge Justin Ravitz's courtróom for the last time. The "core" referred to by Deputy Chief Bennen consisted of tluee Detroit cops who were named repeatedly, in sworn testimony from the witness stand, as being at the center of a loosely structured conspiracy to deal in heroin and cocaïne, mvolving more than 40 people in the LOth ( Livernois) a sixsquare mile area on the city's west side. Sgt. Rudy Davis. who headed the precinct narcotics unit in the lOth: Patrolman Roben "Mustache" Mitchell. who worked foi 18 years in Number 10 and was also a member of the PNÜ; and KTchard Herold, at one time a member of the Central Narcotics Section and later a patrolman in the lOth, luid all been charged on two counts: conspiracy to sell narcotics (which carnes a maximum sentence of twenty years); and conspiracy to obstruct justice (which specified a number of crimes, includirtg bribery , kidnapping and murder, and carríes a-five-year maximum term). Only Mitchell was found guilty on both counts. and thus faces up to 25 years in prison when Judge Ravitz pronounces sentencmg sometime within the next two or linee weeks. Davis and llerold were each convicted of the conspira c) to bstruct charge, but acquit ted on the l'irst count of conspiring to sell. For Rudy Davis, it was the second time in the past year and a half tliat lic been lound guilty on a conspiracy to obstruct cliarge. Last year Judge Ravitz gave him tliiee to t'ive years in another case (also stemming trom George Bsnnett's investigation), which included' testimoriy that Davis had taken a S5.000 bribe from a Detroit dope dealer. As for the civilian defendants. the only one to escape conviction was Robert Neely. who was dèscribed by his attorney, Sienna La Rene. as a master gambler and not the cocaïne merchant lic was alleged to be by several prosecution witnesses. Four of tlie other civilians were föund guilty on the conspiracy to sell charge, and face incarceration for up to twenty years. They are Guido laconelli, Harold "Boo" Turner, Moi ris Bivens and Harold "Rook" Davis. Erskine llaslip. a shoe store owner who was charged with aiding in the bribery o'f pólice officers, was convicted on the second count. Haslip's conviction. coupled with the acquittal of two pólice officers he was alleged to have paid off David Slater and Willie Peeples -tends to sebstantiate the view held by some close observers of the case that the jury indulged in compromise and trade-off in their effort to reach a decisión on all nineteen of the verdict they were charged with rendering. For while the acquittal of Sergeants William Stackhouse and ('arlos Gonzales and pat rol men Daniel O'Mara and ('harlie Brown carne as no greal surprise, because of theiimited amount of testimony against iliem. the not-guilty vefdicts for Peeples and Slater indicated that the jury of eight blaeks and four whites did considerable picking and chósing in theii search foi credible testimony. Apparently tlie chose to accept the testimony of' convicted dope dealei Miltori "Happy" Battle on the subject of Guido facocontiitued on page 29 Defendants in the llnli Ptecinct Compiracy Trial: (from left to rigtit) Rmly Davis, Richard Hërold, Cluirlic Brown, Wittie Peeples, Robert MitdiéH, Daniel O 'Mura. lOthPrecinct continued front page 3 nelli and Erskine Haslip (who wo'uld probably not have been convicted without Battle on the stand). At the same time, they apparently decided not to believe Battle when he told of thousands'of dollars in pay-offs to Slater and Peeples through Roy "Alabama Red" McNeal, another key witness for the prosecution, at Haslip'sshoe store. Beyond whether the ends of justice have been properly served in this extremely long and expensive trial (estimates of the cost range from S2 to $4 million), the vital question now is whether the convictions will have the effects desired and hoped for by the prosecution team as it opened its case back in July. George Bennen and his special Detail 318, along with the Wayne County Organized Crime Task Forcé, headed by Roy C. Hayes and chief trial lawyer Walter Gibbs, especially wanted convictions against the cops they feit were most deeply involved in narcotics-related corruption in the lOth Precinct. Their intention was to send a tough warning to cops throughout the city that the kind of collusion that has allowed the narcotics plague to run unabated in Detroit will no longer be tolerated, and that the department now has both the will and the means to clean its own house. But further, it was hoped that convictions with sufficiently heavy sentencing might lead certain of the cops- Davis, Mitchell and Herold in particular-to rip the so-called Blue Curtain, which has ditionally kept cops from copping on each other, and to name the higher-ups in the DPD who have often been rumored to be on the take in connection with the illicit drug business that has been spilling the Iife blood of this city over the past several years. After the jury liad announced its verdict, Judge Justin Ravitz told those who had been found guilty that he was going to be a "stern judge" in passing sentence on eacli of thein. "Not a day goes by in this city," he said, "where little people don't get hurt mortally and otherwise by heroin." The cight convicted defendants, said the judge, liad "contributed very serious damage and injury to this jurisdiction and conimunity." The Judge added that those who wish to begin to compénsate for wliat they've done should start by telling the full truth to the Probation Department representatives who would be interviewing them shortly. And in order to give them "a period for sober reflection," the judge immediately remanded all of those convicted to the Wayne County Jail to await serttencing. Only time wil! reveal the genuine effect of this extraordinary trial on the troubled Iife of this city, but George Bennett, who has spent the past five years undei threats to his Iife while pursuing his investiga tion, announced to reporters after the verdict that his effort is far from completed. "I want to serve notice," he said, "that this is only the beginning, that this community will not tolérate narcotics conspiracies such as this one, nor any kind of criminal pólice conspiracy."