Officers convicted in GTTF trial
Two Baltimore police officers were convicted by a federal jury Monday night in a case that laid bare dysfunction within the city police department.
The room was silent as the jury foreman read the verdicts against Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, the only officers of the disbanded Gun Trace Task Force to go to trial. Racketeering, guilty; racketeering conspiracy, guilty; robbery with the use of force, guilty.
They were acquitted of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
Taylor sat stoic. While, Hersl had his head buried in his hands.
Alex Hilton, 49, one of their victims, was in the courtroom and cried tears of joy upon hearing the verdict.
“I’m relieved because," Hilton cried. "Don’t get me wrong. I’m not angel. I’ve lived in a tough piece of Baltimore pretty much all my life. I’ve never been afraid of anyone, I can’t live with it anymore I gotta face him in this trial."
Hersl robbed Hilton’s home in East Baltimore. Hilton says he attended every day of the trial seeking closure.
And he says he doesn’t have anything to say to Hersl.
“I don’t wish him no harm. I don’t wish nothing bad on nobody," Hilton said. "Like I said I’ve been to prison before I don’t wish that on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t even be able to bring myself to talk to him.”
Eight members of the task force were indicted in the case, six pleaded guilty to the charges and four of those testified against Hersl and Taylor.
Stephen Schenning, Acting US Attorney for Maryland, said the officers targeted victims who seemed to have no recourse or anyone to turn for help.
"They indicated they weren’t worthy of belief," said Schenning. "They indicated they were liars and shouldn’t be believed.”
Schenning said he hopes the verdicts send a message that officers have “the honor and privilege of having a badge and I would hope police officers live up to that.”
William Purpura, Hersl’s lawyer, spoke briefly, saying the family was grieving and Hersl’s time in jail may be longer than they expected.
Hersl and Taylor could face as much as 60 years in prison.
Baltimore Commissioner Designate Darryl De Sousa said in a statement, “the indictments and subsequent trial uncovered some of the most egregious and despicable acts in law enforcement.” And De Sousa wrote he has, “zero tolerance for corruption.”
Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a written statement that she is “confident that this sordid chapter of policing culture can be closed as we work each and every day to re-establish the trust and confidence that our citizens need and deserve to have in their police officers.”
Governor Larry Hogan spoke of the corruption revealed during the trial.
“Obviously we’ve got to root out corruption wherever it lies particularly within our law enforcement community," said Hogan.
“We’re not quite ready to move forward yet without learning more about how these acts have continued over a six, seven, eight year period without anyone learning about the corruption," said Doug Colbert, a University of Maryland Law School professor.
Colbert said that this trial may be the tip of the iceberg for the federal prosecutors investigation.
“So I would expect that the investigation continues," Colbert said. "That sentencing may not take place on the day it is scheduled for all of the defendants.”
Schenning would not comment on whether this case could lead to indictments of other officers involved.
Judge Catherine Blake has not set a sentencing date.