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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Police Officer Embroiled in Corruption Case is Suspended

Minneapolis police officer embroiled in corruption case is suspended
The Star Tribune by TONY KENNEDY, PAUL McENROE and DAVID CHANEN - January 30, 2009

A Minneapolis police lieutenant, who was cleared of criminal wrongdoing in a federal corruption investigation, has been suspended without pay for related departmental violations. Lt. Lee Edwards, 51, began the suspension this week, but the length of the disciplinary action was not disclosed. The department's Internal Affairs Unit found that Edwards violated codes of conduct and ethics in dealing with a high-ranking member of the Gangster Disciples street gang. He faced six Internal Affairs allegations; four of them were sustained in a report completed last summer. Edwards was the main target in an FBI probe of police corruption as alleged by Taylor Trump, the gang member. Trump, a convicted drug dealer who is awaiting sentencing on federal mortgage fraud and drug charges, told authorities in June 2007 that he had knowledge of at least six Minneapolis officers who gave him information to protect his criminal enterprises. Edwards, a former commander in the Homicide Unit and inspector in the Fourth Precinct on the city's North Side, was taped by the FBI conversing with Trump and providing him with the license plate number of a city-owned vehicle.

The Internal Affairs report stated, "Edwards should know that a vehicle listing to the City of Minneapolis Equipment Division is likely to be an unmarked squad and that revealing this information to a known gang member and drug dealer could result in physical harm or death to an undercover police officer." In that instance, Edwards was found to have violated the department's code of ethics by providing a gang member with information related to an unmarked police vehicle. The three other sustained findings are closely related to the one in which Edwards provided secured information to Trump. Edwards, for his part, has maintained that he was conversing with Trump only because he sought to turn the gang member into a confidential informant. He said that, at the time, he did not know that the FBI was already using Trump as an informant. Trump was directed by the FBI in the summer of 2007 to get close to Edwards in an attempt to find whether Edwards would take money in return for providing information. But while Edwards provided Trump with information, no bribe money was offered by Trump. Three weeks ago, Edwards was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the Anoka County Attorney's office. Minneapolis police investigators involved in the FBI investigation had asked the Anoka County Attorney's office to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

The Anoka County review found that Edwards' communications with Trump were "rather innocuous" and he never received any tangible benefits or rewards. Anoka County Attorney Robert M.A. Johnson said in his letter explaining the decision not to file charges that Edwards released information to Trump "solely because he and Trump had been acquainted with each other since the early 1980s while attending college in Mankato." Edwards, who recently was promoted to run the department's Training Unit, could not be reached for comment. He is expected to appeal the unpaid suspension. Edwards is one of five black Minneapolis police officers who filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Chief Tim Dolan and the City of Minneapolis in December 2007. The lawsuit is pending. Sgt. Bill Palmer, Minneapolis Police spokesman, declined to comment. When asked about Edwards' suspension, Palmer said, "it's a non-public personnel matter.'' According to the Internal Affairs report, a key allegation against Edwards was not sustained. That allegation, made by Trump, was that Edwards had accepted bribe payments over the years of approximately $5,000 for providing information related to on-going criminal investigations. "With the exception of the statement of Taylor Trump, there is no evidence to support the allegation that Lt. Lee Edwards violated the professional code of conduct as it relates to this specific allegation," the report stated. Paul McEnroe 612-673-1745 Tony Kennedy 612-673-4213 David Chanen 612-673-4465

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