A judge frustrated over a string of probation sentences for dirty cops on Monday sent a former Mesquite narcotics sergeant to federal prison for 15 months for stealing money he thought belonged to a drug dealer.DMN's Jason Trahan reports that Federal District Judge Sam Lindsay cited several instances where law enforcement officers got off light:
John David McAllister was arrested in March after FBI agents set up a sting in which they placed $100,000 of supposed drug money in a vehicle and asked McAllister to help them seize it. Undercover cameras showed McAllister stuffing $2,000 into his pants.
“This court takes the deterrent effect very seriously,” Lindsay said. “If law enforcement officials are going to break the very law they are sworn to uphold, they need more than a slap on the wrist.”Lindsay is right, and it takes judges with a stiffer backbone to do something about it. Yesterday in an analysis of rulings by new Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Elsa Alcala, Grits described "an opinion overturning a conviction of a Harris County Sheriff's deputy involving a telemarketing scam run on behalf of the union, using a much more defense-oriented analysis of sufficiency of the evidence than any average, non-officer defendant should ever expect to receive from her. All of a sudden, when a Harris County Sheriff's deputy was accused, her habitual deference to juries went out the window." This is the default stance for Texas state judges, from the district court level up to the highest criminal court, and as Lindsay points out it directly contributes to corruption.
He cited several local cases in which officers got probation for committing crimes, including another Mesquite officer. A Dallas County judge in April gave former Officer David Sutton a year of probation after he pleaded guilty to a state jail felony for stealing $1,800 from the Santa Cops and Special Olympics programs. Sutton told investigators he had been having financial problems.
In May, a Dallas County jury generated waves of criticism for giving former Dallas police Officer Alph Coleman 10 years of probation and a $10,000 fine after finding him guilty of participating in the robbery of a Sam’s Club in 2008.
Lindsay also cited the case of Carlos Ortiz, who was allowed to remain an FBI agent despite being involved in two armed standoffs in 1992 and 2004. He finally received two years in federal prison after he told a friend last summer that he was going to kill his wife and the head of the Dallas FBI, Robert E. Casey Jr. It was only then that he was fired, arrested and charged.
“Those breaks would not have been afforded to members of the public,” Lindsay said.
Before sentencing, McAllister told the judge the nature of the job contributes to an attitude that police can get away with whatever they want: “I was the big man on campus ... The job breeds that." Corruption might lessen if judges routinely recognized that fact about police jobs, but instead, with rare exceptions like Judge Lindsay, the baseline impulse from officialdom is to routinely ignore it. It'll take more than this one case to change the perception of law enforcement that when they engage in serious misconduct, judges and prosecutors will usually have their backs.
MORE: From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and NBC-DFW.