BALTIMORE — An exhaustive 500 plus page report was released Thursday detailing the roots of one of Baltimore City's biggest police corruption scandals.
New York based law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP were hired two years ago to oversee the review, by then City Solicitor Andre Davis.
It surrounds the disgraced Gun Trace Task Force, formerly made up of now federally convicted felons Wayne Jenkins, Momodu Gondo, Jemell Rayam, Daniel Hersl, Marcus Taylor, Maurice Ward and Evodio Hendrix.
As of December 2021 — 12 of those 13 men have either pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial.
Some of them still managed to get paid after they have been suspended according to an audit released last March.
But how did the task force even rise to that level?
In 2009 the department's current Chief of Patrol, Kevin A. Jones, was brought in to run a unit that was originally meant to analyze and track guns in the city.
Jones spoke with investigators, and apparently admitted to being a bad fit and having no prior experience doing analytic work.
While starting up, Jones brought with him Momodu Gondo and Jemell Rayam, two officers he previously supervised. Neither had any prior analytical experience.
Warning signs about both men were ignored. Shortly after being recruited to the task force, Rayam was suspended 18 months over allegations that he and another officer stole $11,000 from a suspected drug dealer. He was eventually acquitted by a department trial board on technical grounds, although he later admitted to the crime when he was federally indicted in 2017.
Then there's Gondo, whose best friend growing up was a heroin dealer. Throughout his police career, Gondo remained friends with the dealer and worked to protect him from law enforcement.
This all led to a culture that allowed those members who would become part of the task force to run roughshod.
Take Wayne Jenkins for example, the so called ring leader of the task force.
On at least three prior occasions, he escaped severe discipline.
On August 28, 2010, Jenkins and other officers were involved in a police chase that left an innocent 86-year-old man dead. As the task force trials unfolded, it was revealed drugs were later planted in the car of the two men they had originally been chasing, to justify the pursuit. It was this incident, that implicated the now deceased detective, Sean Suiter.
Investigators said they spoke with Jenkins by phone in January 2021, to ask who planted the drugs.
"Sean Suiter—not at my direction, but he put drugs under the seat," Jenkins was quoted as telling investigators.
Jenkins continued to tell investigators about a meeting he had with Suiter after the incident.
According to Jenkins, Suiter said this about the two men they were chasing; “F**k them n****s, they killed a man.” Jenkins reportedly went on to say that Suiter admitted to planting drugs in the vehicle and that he “pulled [the drugs] out of [Keith] Gladstone’s trunk.”
That is all Jenkins provided to investigators, because he wanted a movie producer to be present for the interview.
Both men who were arrested over the planted drugs served more than 11 years in prison combined. The City ultimately paid out $8 million to settle their wrongful convictions and prison sentences.
One of the men, Umar H. Burley, was arrested again in December 2021 on attempted murder charges out of Virginia.
In February 2014, Jenkins and another officer pulled a man over and held him for over an hour to search his car. An internal affairs detective believed Jenkins had planted drugs in the man's vehicle, but did not have sufficient evidence to prove it.
The internal investigation led Jenkins to face departmental charges of misconduct, neglect of duty, and failure to supervise. The Deputy Commissioner of Internal Affairs at the time reportedly felt Jenkins was a "bad apple," and wanted to come down hard on him.
A charging committee later recommended that Jenkins be demoted, transferred to patrol, receive a severe letter of reprimand, and lose 15 days of leave.
None of those charges ended up sticking however, as Jenkins' lawyers somehow came to an agreement with the department that let him walk with a mere slap on the wrist.
A month later Jenkins landed in hot water again, when he hit a man with his car who he falsely claimed was armed with a gun.
When it was evident the man wasn't armed, court documents revealed it was Gladstone with the help of officers Carmine Vignola and Robert Hankard, who came to the rescue and allegedly planted a BB gun at the scene of the crash.
A trial board again cleared Jenkins, by determining the use of force was a last resort effort to protect the life of another officer.
There were times that the department tried giving Jenkins and his squad some oversight, but his connections with upper command staff always seemed to save him.
At one point, a lieutenant wanted to hold weekly case reviews with the State's Attorney's Office, but the report claims Jenkins was uncomfortable with the plan and had a top commander put a stop to it.
Vignola has a long history of disciplinary issues in the department. The investigative report revealed he once broke a suspect's eye socket by punching them repeatedly for resisting arrest during an October 2016 car stop. He was not charged and received no punishment in that case, although an internal investigation found there was no legal basis for the stop to begin with. That incident followed Vignola's involvement in two on-duty shootings, within an eight-month period. The second shooting occurred when Vignola entered a home without a warrant, leading him to fire four times through a bedroom wall. Both shootings ended up being ruled justified.
Gladstone happened to be Vignola's supervisor at the time. The report brings up multiple situations where former members recalled Gladstone taking part in alleged misconduct.
One such occasion happened in February 2009, when Gladstone allegedly stole a portion of drugs that were recovered during a large search and seizure bust.
Investigators spoke with one of those officers involved, Victor Rivera, who claimed Gladstone mapped out a plan to have an informant sell the drugs so they and a third officer, Ivo Louvado, could split the proceeds.
Seven years earlier, then federal judge Andre Davis questioned Gladstone's credibility following the execution of another search warrant. Davis later became the City's Solicitor who ordered this independent investigation. Gladstone has not been charged with any other crimes besides the one with Vignola and Hankard, where they're accused of helping Jenkins plant a BB gun.
More than 800 open and closed criminal cases have been dropped, including convictions, because they were tainted by the fallout. Courts have also ordered the police department to payout settlements from lawsuits that stemmed from the scandal.
The detailed report doesn't focus solely on the corruption within the task force. It goes all the way back to 1999, and scrutinizes departmental practices that helped lead the agency to come under a federal consent decree.
Several instances of corruption that preceded the take down of the task force are discussed in the report, which highlights wrongdoing by officers that under normal circumstances would have raised red flags.
Somehow someway many were able to avoid termination and remain on the job, until in some cases the law caught up with them.
The writers make mention of a time in 1999, when a BPD helicopter pilot was accused by five female officers who worked under him of sexual harassment. Despite overwhelming evidence, he was acquitted by a trial board. One of the members who voted to acquit feared having a hard career ahead if he chose to convict, according to the report.
That same officer along with others filed civil rights complaints against the department over the disciplinary action they faced, which resulted in their police powers being restored, despite some of them being accused of selling cocaine, groping women, lying in court, and assaulting their colleagues.
Another incident in September 2000, left an officer in legal peril after he allegedly planted drugs on an 18-year-old drug dealer in the park, and arrested him. The only problem was, that the drugs in question were supposedly left on the park bench by the department's Internal Affairs and were meant to be part of a covert sting operation that tested an officer's integrity. On Christmas Eve 2000, a burglary reportedly occurred at the location where evidence against the officer was being housed, leading to charges being dropped. Some of those investigating the officer eventually became suspects in the break-in and destruction of evidence.
Those two occasions are only a couple of the high profile controversies the department would be faced with over time. The report breaks down other scandals of corruption that ended with officers going to prison, including William King and Antonio Murray (2005), Majestic Towing (2009), Daniel Redd (2012), and Kendall Richburg (2013).
Investigators say that type of behavior is in part the result of how officers are trained at the very beginning of their careers, in the academy.
In the report, investigators wrote:
"Applicants were frequently pushed through the hiring process despite red flags that became apparent during the application process that should have proved disqualifying or at a minimum required additional follow-up and investigation. At the Academy, recruits were in some cases provided with the answers to test questions to ensure that all recruits graduated to meet BPD’s insatiable demand for personnel."
Criminal behavior at times even reached the top levels of the City and Police Department, not to mention concerns that city leaders often became involved and influential in police affairs.
Throughout the timeline of the report, Baltimore Police went through nine Commissioners while the City went through six mayors.
One former Police Commissioner, Darryl DeSousa, resigned after being charged and convicted of failing to file federal income tax returns.
The Mayor who appointed him, Catherine Pugh, also later stepped down after she too was federally charged and convicted of tax evasion.
There are other examples cited in the report of how some of the police department's past commissioners and leaders became entangled in controversy.
One describes officer accounts of how former Commissioner Kevin Clark, may have sent his own Internal Affairs investigators on a mission to follow a female who worked for the Mayor's office at the time, to dig up dirt because he felt he was going to be fired.
Clark had just overcome domestic violence allegations that had put his job in jeopardy. He eventually was fired in 2004 for unrelated reasons. He was never charged with a crime and denied any wrongdoing.
Baltimore Police are expected to respond to the report during a January 20 public court hearing which will also discuss progress made under the federal consent decree.