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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Former Sheriff's Deputy Pleads Guilty to Extortion Charges

Former sheriff's deputy pleads guilty to extortion charges
The Houston Chronicle by James Pinkerton - February 7, 2011

A former Harris County sheriff’s deputy suspected of using his badge and gun to stop drug dealers and steal their loads pleaded guilty Monday to federal extortion charges. Richard Bryan Nutt Jr., 43, entered a guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore on Monday, admitting his role in an undercover sting set up in December by Houston police and FBI agents. Nutt, wearing his sheriff’s uniform and carrying his gun, and four Houston men were arrested Dec. 15 after Nutt followed an SUV driven by an HPD officer posing as a Mexican drug courier. One of the men, Nathaniel House, 37, entered the SUV and retrieved a package containing a 2-kilogram load of fake cocaine. The HPD undercover officer left the SUV and walked into a sporting store. Nutt and two other men were stopped as they left with the contraband. Houston police set up the undercover sting operation after obtaining "information that members of law enforcement were robbing shipments of narcotics,’’ according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Nutt, who is free on bond, faces up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, and a $250,000 fine. A co-defendant in the case, House, also pleaded guilty and is set to be sentenced with Nutt in June. The former lawman’s attorney, Mark Thering, said Nutt was told the courier would be carrying $500,000 in drug proceeds — not drugs. The officer’s cut was supposed to be $100,000. Thering said Nutt regrets his behavior. "This is the first time he’s done this," Thering said. "Others can differ with that, but there has to be a first time for everyone and this truly was Mr. Nutt’s first time to engage in any criminal activity." Thering said Nutt did not know any of the four men he was arrested with, adding the ex-deputy was recruited by a man he met while working security at a local nightclub. "Why does any law-abiding citizen delve into criminal activity — I’m thinking it’s a question of easy money,’’ Thering said. "I don’t want to trivialize what he did, because he broke the law and expects to go to prison. He regrets with every fiber of his being making that decision. He’s disappointed his family, and put a black mark on the quality of people who work for the sheriff department.’’ Nutt was separated from his wife at the time of his arrest, and was under financial strain, Thering said. "He hadn’t done it before and this was going to be the proceeds of money, and money only. But when he got down to it he ended up sitting on two kilos of cocaine,’’ Thering said. Thering said his client elected to plead relatively quickly because of the videotaped evidence against him, as well getting favorable consideration at sentencing for taking early responsibility for his crime. "Sheriff Garcia and his almost 4,000 employees have worked hard to restore public trust in the Harris County Sheriff’s Office," said Alan Bernstein, director of public affairs for Sheriff Adrian Garcia. "In the thankfully rare cases where that effort involves holding current and former employees responsible for breaking the law, the justice system at multiple levels is once more demonstrating that it works. In addition, Mr. Nutt was dismissed from his job as a deputy soon after charges were filed against him."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The amount of money being stolen on a daily basis in Los Angeles County by so called police officers is on a good day tens to hundreds of millions...and a bad day tens of thousands. Without much much tougher sentencing for crimes committed by law enforcement officials on or off duty the government will continue to loose this mega contribution to their -our tax base.