Sunday, May 09, 2010

Dallas home invader snitches, walks free, then fingers competitors while starting up new crew

A frequent theme on this blog has explored the risks from law enforcement tolerating crimes by informants to seek out other defendants who may or may not even be guilty. It's a slippery slope that Dallas prosecutors may soon discover isn't worth the risk when dealing with seriously dangerous criminals. Reports Tanya Eiserer at the Dallas Morning News ("Robber committed Dallas-area heists while free on bond, police say," May 8):

A confessed robber out on bond after he masterminded a series of violent North Texas home invasions apparently formed a new gang and went right back to his old ways.

In February 2008, William Sedric Autrey reached a plea deal with prosecutors and agreed to work as an undercover informant against others in a gang believed responsible for dozens of home invasions and burglaries between 2005 and 2008.

He was out on bond for almost two years, after negotiating a plea deal to ensure he would not spend more than 15 years behind bars. Authorities say that while he was free, Autrey, 41, formed a new gang that burst into houses, exchanged gunfire with a Dallas homeowner and burglarized and robbed almost two dozen homes around the area since November.

Autrey was supposed to be wearing an electronic monitor.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins referred questions about why Autrey was free to Kevin Brooks, the district attorney's felony trial bureau chief. Brooks said Autrey was continuing to do undercover work for law enforcement right up to the time he was rearrested.

"He has cooperated and helped get indictments on cases that involved hundreds of thousands of dollars" in mortgage fraud, student loan fraud and other white-collar crimes, Brooks said. He also said that Autrey continued to work with authorities on violent crimes, including some home invasion robberies committed by other people. Brooks declined to provide details.

"He was a busy boy," Brooks said. He added that now that Autrey has violated his plea agreement, "We will be going at him full speed ahead on his cases."

Danny Clancy, Watkins' Republican opponent in the November election, said he could see no reason for a confessed criminal to run free for almost two years.

"The public should be outraged and demanding answers," he said. "It all goes back to the inexperience at the top."

Brooks said it is not unusual "to cut a deal with somebody who may have done something violent in the past if it can help you solve other violent offenses, as well as any other type of offense."

He said he did not know at the time Autry received his plea deal of any violent acts he personally had committed, but said confidential informants "rarely are nice people. It can be a dirty business."

A dirty business indeed. I'm betting that if all the evidence were vetted by an independent party, we'd soon learn that this wasn't the first time officials have heard of illegal or violent activities by Mr. Autry. He couldn't get that deep into the other white collar crimes described - much less have inside intel to finger competing home invasion crews - if he weren't neck-deep in criminal activity long before now.

I'd be interested in hearing Alexandra Natapoff's views on the case. Her book Snitching just received the 2010 ABA Silver Gavel Award Honorable Mention for Books.

1 comment:

Don Dickson said...

Some years ago a buddy of mine stopped a pickup truck and made one of the biggest cocaine seizures in U.S. history...until they told him he had to let the guy go. The incredible story here: