BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys for Detectives Marcus Taylor and Daniel Hersl rested their cases in the landmark Baltimore City Police corruption trial. Both defendants declined to testify.
Lawyers for Hersl and Taylor presented a combined three rebuttal witnesses and are relying on their cross examination of prosecution witnesses to raise reasonable doubt.
Judge Catherine Blake warned jurors “the case is not yet over.”
She dismissed them Tuesday afternoon and told them to expect to hear jury instructions and closing arguments before possibly beginning deliberations Wednesday. A verdict could come as early as Wednesday afternoon.
The final prosecution witness was Officer James Kostoplis, who was in the elite gun unit with Hersl and Taylor, the Gun Trace Task Force, from October 2016 until February 2017.
He said Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, who supervised the GTTF, took a 90-day leave for the birth of his child, and while Jenkins was gone the unit did “not really much of anything.” But he said an encounter with Jenkins when he returned to the GTTF in January raised alarm.
“We’re going to go for a ride real quick,” he remembers Jenkins telling him, with Hersl by Jenkins’ side. The three of them got into Jenkins’ BPD van and drove to a side street near Headquarters where Kostoplis says Jenkins told him to leave his cell phone and radio in the vehicle while everyone got out.
When he got to the rear of the van, Kostoplis says Sgt. Jenkins posed a question: “What do you think? We start following around a high-level drug dealer. We find out where he’s keeping his cash and we take it.”
Kostoplis immediately said no. “That’s a terrible f****** idea,” he remembers telling Jenkins. “You can’t have a badge on your chest and do that.”
He says Jenkins and Hersl both agreed and told him it was indeed a “bad idea,” drove him back to headquarters, and said nothing more about it.
Days later, Jenkins ordered Kostoplis transferred out of the GTTF.
The sergeant explained to Kostoplis that he was up for a promotion to lieutenant and did not want to take risks putting his officers in the field at the time, and he knew Kostoplis wanted to focus on street work.
Yet in his new position, Kostoplis saw Jenkins and the rest of the GTTF out on the streets.
Still, he never believed they were corrupt, having worked with Jenkins in Northeast Baltimore years before. He says Jenkins told him back then there were two rules, “You don’t take money and you don’t plant stuff on people.”
When Kostoplis learned federal authorities arrested Jenkins and other members of his old squad on March 1, it all clicked. He immediately went to the FBI about the suspicious interaction with Jenkins.
“I realized what he asked me wasn’t a test to see if I could be trusted around large amounts of money, but he was in fact asking me to steal money,” Kostoplis testified.
Jurors also heard from FBI Special Agent Erika Jensen who testified about why there was not much physical surveillance of the officers. She said there had been “multiple leaks.” Prosecutors say several high-level officers and an assistant state’s attorney tipped off the GTTF they were under federal investigation.
“We were concerned given the gravity of the situation that we would blow it by being seen,” Jensen testified.
She said Detective Momodu Gondo even “spotted them” once in mid-August outside his home.
Jensen said they declined to get player card information or surveillance video from Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino, which the officers frequented, because “we were frankly afraid to give officers’ names to them.” She said they would have needed Baltimore Police Department liaisons.
She also testified they never found large amounts of cash or any drugs after a search of Detective Hersl’s home in Joppa, but she said cell phone records placed him near that home on days when he was being paid for being on the clock.
She also testified about Detective Taylor falsifying time sheets while he went on a vacation to the Dominican Republic last August. She said the FBI even set up surveillance at BPD Headquarters for a day to see if the officers would show up for work on time. They are accused of overtime fraud.
Many BPD officers and command staff have been implicated in the testimony and have not been charged. The police department has set up a new corruption investigation unit to handle allegations arising from the trial.
Court proceedings resume at 11 a.m. Wednesday. The judge delayed them two hours for expected inclement weather.
CLICK HERE for our previous stories on this trial.