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Friday, June 12, 2009

Ex-Cops Found Guilty on Drug Charges

Ex-cops found guilty on drug charges
The by Jon Murray - June 12, 2009

Two former Indianapolis narcotics detectives face the prospect of two decades in prison after a jury convicted them Friday in the city's biggest police corruption case in years. But the penalties could have been stiffer. Although Robert P. Long and Jason P. Edwards were convicted of conspiracy and drug charges for their part in a scheme to steal marijuana and money from drug dealers, they were acquitted on firearms charges. Convictions on the gun charges could have meant 55 years of extra prison time for Long, 35 -- an effective life sentence -- plus five additional years for Edwards, 38. "It's always a sad day when police officers are convicted on federal charges," U.S. Attorney Timothy M. Morrison said outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Downtown Indianapolis. The jury's verdict still will hold the men accountable, Morrison said, and "provides some sense of justice to those people who think law enforcement personnel are immune from the law." After two hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Long and Edwards of conspiracy and several counts of actual or attempted drug possession with intent to distribute. The half-dozen incidents played out under the FBI's watch from March to June 2008. Investigators engineered several of the incidents, including a $20,000 shakedown of a drug courier, an intercepted package containing marijuana and a videotaped theft of marijuana and cash from a supposed drug house, planted there by the FBI. A third former officer, James D. Davis, 34, has pleaded guilty to his role and faces 10 to 15 years in prison.

In court documents, prosecutors also outlined allegations of earlier graft by Long and Edwards going back years, but the jury was barred from hearing those claims. Kevin McShane, Edwards' attorney, said later that the jury's verdict was fair. Long's attorneys, Ralph Staples and Jeffrey Mendes, were pleased by convictions that could result in Long's release by the time his grandchildren are born. They had challenged the firearms charges in part by arguing that even when Long carried a gun, it never left his holster and didn't further the crimes. Edwards, on suspension at the time from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, didn't have a gun. "They took advantage of opportunities," Staples said. "And that is what they should be punished for." In a win for government lawyers, the jury decided that the drug conspiracy involved an amount of marijuana above a 50-kilogram threshold -- about 110 pounds -- that sets a 20-year maximum sentence, instead of five years. A grand jury's eight-count indictment of the officers didn't include actual corruption-related charges. Morrison said federal law is murkier in such situations than Indiana law, which provides a broad low-level felony charge of official misconduct. Before the jury, defense attorneys conceded the mountain of evidence but protested that investigators let the caper run long after they had the officers pinched. McShane compared the case to a movie during his closing argument Friday. He even suggested a title: "The Last Temptation of Rob and Jason." "(The movie) was produced, scripted and directed by FBI Entertainment, if you will," McShane said. "Robert and Jason were invited to star in this production, and they agreed -- to their everlasting regret."

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