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Jurors begin deliberations in Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force trial; will resume Monday

Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

The trial included years worth of allegations that officers from the elite unit used illegal tactics to stop citizens on the street and search their property without justification, then skimmed money.

But the unit also was carrying out much bigger heists, targeting people they believed to have large amounts of cash and finding ways to get to their property. Officers testified that Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, the unit's commander, often sought out the next target by asking victims whom they would rob if given the chance.

Hersl and Taylor are charged with racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, robbery and use of a firearm in a crime of violence, with prosecutors saying their service weapons were used for the purpose of committing extortion.

Though jurors heard a slew of sordid allegations against the entire unit, many of them focused on Jenkins. The two officers are charged with specific acts in furtherance of the conspiracy. Hersl is charged with five robberies, Taylor with four separate robberies, and both face several counts of overtime fraud.

Jurors must find the officers guilty of at least two of those "overt acts" in order to convict them of racketeering -- the same kind of charge used by government prosecutors to take down gangs and drug organizations.

The complicated jury instructions took U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake nearly two hours to outline. The charges the officers are facing are the same the government uses to take down gangs and drug organizations.

 

The officers, who have been detained since their arrests last March, face maximum sentences of life in prison.

On Wednesday, Hersl's attorney said the government had failed to prove the bulk of the specific accusations against his client.

Hersl acknowledged taking money in two cases, attorney William Purpura said, but should not be charged with federal crimes.

"Look, after 17 years as a street cop, his conduct was wrong," Purpura told jurors. "It is totally up to you to decipher what exactly that conduct was."

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