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Saturday, October 18, 2008

No jail for cop who dealt drugs

The Salem News by Alan Burke - October 15, 2008

BOSTON — Former Swampscott Patrolman Thomas Wrenn was sentenced to six months' home confinement and two years' supervised probation in U.S. District Court yesterday for possessing drugs, cocaine and oxycodone, with intent to sell. Wrenn, 37, pleaded guilty to the charge last June, admitting that he dealt drugs even while he was a working police officer. Court papers revealed that Wrenn sometimes stored pills inside his child's Batman Pez dispenser. He was arrested in Lynn while attempting to buy drugs during a combined DEA/Swampscott police sting operation last March. Prior to sentencing, in a voice slightly quivering, Wrenn offered an apology to the community. "I'd like nothing more than to be able to reclaim my life. I've learned my lesson. Nothing like this will ever happen again."

"My inclination was to go beyond (Assistant U.S. Attorney John McNeil's) recommendation and put you in jail," Judge Joseph Tauro told Wrenn. Ultimately, he handed down a lighter sentence than the one recommended. The potential penalty for possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute is 20 years in prison. Wrenn, a 10-year veteran of the Swampscott police, was also sentenced to "time served" — one night in jail. It was a plea by the defense attorney, Tracy Miner, including a description of Wrenn's travails since he was caught, that turned the judge around. "I think you're fortunate to have such an able counsel," Tauro told the disgraced officer. "It's been a difficult ordeal for the majority of the members of the Swampscott Police Department," Chief Ronald Madigan said when he learned of the sentencing. Wrenn's arrest shocked the department and reflected badly on its people, he said. "But the sense is now that the community recognizes that the members of the department are professional and hardworking and upstanding and do a great job." He declined to speak on the impact of the sentence. "It is what it is." Overall, he expresses gratitude that the investigation, which was begun by the Swampscott police, is at an end. "For the Swampscott Police Department, it represents closure. It's time for the Police Department to move beyond it."

'Dirty cop' - In court, prosecutor McNeil rebutted a written plea by Miner that stressed her client's better nature. Instead, he described Wrenn as "A corrupt cop. A dirty cop." The prosecutor scoffed, "He claims he was a family man and a good cop. ... He was far from a family man." McNeil pointed to the married officer's use of drugs to gain sex from female addicts. In addition, Wrenn also involved another cop, former Nahant officer Michael Kairevich, who later cooperated in the investigation against Wrenn. "Any sentence of straight probation is going to be viewed ... as something of a joke," McNeil said. "The court needs to send some message to the community." It was difficult not recommending jail time, McNeil said. On the other hand, confining Wrenn for six months in a community facility, a halfway house, would allow him to keep his job and to continue to support his two children. In addition, the prosecutor asked for three years of supervised probation.

Acknowledging Wrenn's cooperation almost from the moment of his arrest, McNeil said, "He largely confessed to his crime. ... He agreed to resign from the Swampscott police." He also noted that the drugs were distributed in relatively small amounts "to small-time drug dealers." Miner also minimized Wrenn's drug dealing, noting that he mainly shared the drugs with friends. "This court should not get into the business of judging who his friends are. ... Whether it's AIG executives (workers for the insurance firm bailed out by the government before embarking on a luxury vacation) or Marcia Brady (a 1960s television character known for her upright behavior.)"Moreover, she implied, the case would have been handled in a state court and more leniently if Wrenn had not been a police officer.

'Lost everything' - Wrenn became involved in drug use as a result of painkillers prescribed in the wake of difficult dental work and an on-the-job injury, Miner said. "He made a mistake. He's paid for that mistake dearly." She ticked off the cost to Wrenn, who has lost his nearly $100,000-a-year job, his luxury auto — a Hummer used in some of the drug transactions — and his home in Nahant. He makes ends meet now at a job paying $9 an hour delivering used cars. "(He's) lost everything," Miner said. "He's basically indigent." Wrenn will wear a tracking bracelet during his home confinement, and he pledged to never again hold a job in law enforcement. His attorney indicated that he no longer uses illicit drugs. "He's turning his life around." "Our sentencing has to have credibility," Tauro said. "The public has to believe that justice was done." At a hearing last June, the judge mentioned a plea between Wrenn and the U.S. attorney, but no details were offered then or yesterday. McNeil declined any comment. Leaving court, Miner said, "It was a long process and a fair sentence." Sought for comment, Swampscott Selectmen Jill Sullivan and Eric Walker declined to speak.

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