BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The first time former Baltimore City Police Detective Jemell Rayam wept on the witness stand was after he heard his children in the background of a wiretapped call played for jurors. The second time, he cried recounting how he along with other officers in the Gun Trace Task Force fled the scene after chasing a car in the rain and causing a crash.
“It was a bad accident, and none of us stopped to render aid and see if anyone was hurt,” the disgraced detective testified. “It could have been any of us. It could have been any of you guys, my mother, or my father.”
A courtroom staffer brought Rayam, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, a box of tissues.
FBI recordings from a microphone hidden inside the squad car showed how the officers tried to cover it up. They discussed faking their time sheets to make it seem like they were off the clock and their fears about being caught on the CitiWatch camera system engaging in an illegal chase.
“I was a big follower,” Rayam said. “Although I was doing so much wrong, it got to a certain point where too much was too much.”
Defense attorneys for Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor tried to paint Rayam as a serial liar.
William Purpura, who represents Hersl, brought up Rayam’s troubled past: A rash of police-involved shootings and a string of lies to Internal Affairs that earned Rayam a two-year suspension.
“After you lied, BCPD placed you in a fairly elite task force, at least it’s supposed to be.” Purpura told him.
Rayam admitted lying to Internal Affairs about his relationship with a former officer who now works in the Baltimore Circuit Court, claiming he never met him even though they had phone contacts more than 500 times and went through the academy together. Rayam said they split $11,000 stolen during a traffic stop. Taylor’s attorney Jenifer Wicks said Rayam had a “drug relationship” with the former cop. She said Rayam would seize drugs for him to sell.
Rayam also admitted to selling guns back onto the streets twice.
He said former GTTF Detective Momodu Gondo, who has also pleaded guilty in this case, confided he bought a gun with a friend that was used in a murder and also “laid someone out.”
The bad behavior raises questions about why police promoted Rayam despite so many red flags.
“I’m not lying now. It’s never too late to do the right thing” Rayam testified.
He said he has “a clear conscience. I took an oath, and I broke it. I’m not blaming anyone else for what I did.”
Rayam referred several times to “taxing” people, or stealing some cash when he made a traffic stop or arrest.
Prosecutors also questioned him about overtime fraud. Rayam admitted GTTF detectives would show up after their shifts were already supposed to have ended and claim eight hours or more of overtime on top of that.
They also called victims including Herbert Tate, a heating and air conditioning technician who says Detective Hersl and other officers arrested him without cause, planted drugs on him and stole cash from his wallet.
Hersl’s lawyer tried to paint their client as an outsider in the GTTF, noting he was at one point considered a possible informant who would snitch.
Baltimore rapper Young Moose spoke to WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren after the GTTF arrests about previous run-ins with Hersl.
He believed the detective harassed him, planted evidence, and stole money from his family. His lawyer told Hellgren that getting Internal Affairs reports on Hersl was “like pulling teeth from a tiger.”
Prosecutors may wrap up their case as early as Thursday.
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