By Stephen Janis, Special to the AFRO
The guilty plea by Philadelphia police officer Eric Snell to charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics may have ended the most recent installment in the series of courtroom dramas involving the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF).
But, the testimony, which preceded his admission raises even more questions about the lax oversight by the Baltimore Police Department’s (BPD) command staff overseeing the rogue unit of eight officers who have admitted to dealing drugs, robbing residents, and stealing overtime pay.
In hours of testimony, former GTTF member Jemell Rayam described how he spent days traveling from Newark NJ., to Philadelphia, Pa., seeking to dispose of heroin and cocaine given to him by his supervisor Sgt. Wayne Jenkins.
A travelogue made clear Rayam had free reign to devote countless hours for ferreting drugs across state lines and making deals to sell them with seemingly little interference from commanders.
“It was stressful, running around a lot breaking a lot of laws.” Rayam testified.
The trial hinged upon the connection between Rayam and former Baltimore cop turned Philadelphia police Officer Eric Snell. The two met during Snell’s tenure in Baltimore.
But, after Jenkins gave Rayam roughly 500 grams of heroin and 12 ounces of cocaine confiscated during drug busts, Rayam began a long, circuitous path of trying to unload the stash that led back to Snell.
“I felt like I could make an extra three or four thousand dollars from it,” Rayam told the court.
Initially, Rayam drove to Newark where he gave the drugs to a cousin with instructions to sell them. But, his cousin couldn’t unload all of the heroin because as Rayam described the drugs were “too weak.”
So, Rayam drove back to Newark to reclaim what remained of the drugs, then gave them to a friend in Pennsylvania, who also couldn’t sell them.
The idea to enlist Snell to unload the confiscated narcotics began with a discussion at a wedding Rayam attended several years earlier. There he talked to Snell about a relative, who according to Rayam was a drug dealer.
“I remember having conversations about selling drugs,” Rayam said. “He had connections, family connections.”
To make the deal Rayam texted Snell; it was an exchange couched in euphemisms read aloud by Rayam to the jury during the trial.
“I told him I had nine tickets to the Baltimore Orioles game,” he testified. “Eventually he understood.”
Still, at first Snell pushed back. Nine ounces apparently wasn’t enough to draw his interest.
“He didn’t want ounces, he wanted kilos,” Rayam said.
But ultimately, Snell agreed to sell the drugs. So, Rayam traveled to Philadelphia where the pair agreed on the price.
Soon though, Rayam faced another challenge. His supervisor, Jenkins, was growing impatient.
“Jenkins kept asking me if I had the money from the coke,” Rayam said even encouraging his subordinate to find other means to pay.
“If you don’t have my money, go to the bank to get a loan,” Jenkins texted him.
A veiled threat that prompted Rayam to lean on Snell in a series of texts.
“Yo we still good for tomorrow , right?” Rayam texted Snell. It was an exchange that led to an agreement that Snell would wire money into Rayam’s bank account.
“Yo let me know if you can get to the bank and I’ll give it to the other dude in it with me,” Rayam, texted Snell, referring to Jenkins.
Meanwhile, Jenkins kept up the pressure
“You told me three days in a row you would call me to meet,” Jenkins texted, which prompted Rayam to text Snell.
“How are we looking for tomorrow, my Sarge is bugging me like crazy? I really need you to put it in tomorrow.”
Jurors were shown two surveillance videos of Snell depositing $1,000 and $2,500 respectively into Rayam’s account. Money which was was ultimately paid to Jenkins.
The narrative portrays a group of police officers apparently untethered from supervision and seemingly free of any routine police duties.
Rayam’s testimony jibes with the previous trialsl; GTTF officers recounted unfettered freedom to pursue a variety of crimes.
The previous trials produced guilty verdicts for former GTTF members Marcus Taylor and Daniel Hersl. Previously Wayne Jenkins, Evodio Hendrix, Momodu Gondo, Thomas Allers, and Rayam have all pled guilty.
However, one member of the command staff who has escaped scrutiny is their ranking supervisor Sean Miller. Police officials demoted Miller shortly after the scandal broke but has said little about his fate since.
When asked for comment on what has happened to Miller, police spokesman Matt Jablow did not reply.