By Van Smith
Published by City Paper, June 12, 2013
Since the mid-2000s, when Baltimore police officers William King and Antonio Murray were busted for robbing drug dealers and received combined sentences totaling hundreds of years, the string of corruption scandals involving the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) has been notable for its persistence.
Since 2005, prosecutors have brought cases against BPD law enforcers for rape, murder, theft, gambling, fraud, stalking, lying, obstructing justice, extortion, drug dealing, assault, and prostitution. And the cases keep coming—the latest was unsealed on May 31 against Ashley Roane, a BPD officer accused in a gun, drugs, and fraud case investigated by the FBI (the News Hole, May 31).
Sometimes the crimes were committed while on duty, other times not, but all point to a powerfully intriguing characteristic of corrupt cops: their split personalities, manifesting the human capacity for both good and evil that all people share yet few exhibit to such a trust-busting extreme. Though sworn to uphold the law—which they did on a daily basis—they also broke it, sometimes in shockingly egregious ways, perhaps due to a sense of impunity borne of being an armed badge-holder.
In Roane’s case, her alleged criminal conduct, the evidence of which spanned several months, occurred on two days when she also busted alleged lawbreakers. The proximity in time of her law-enforcing and alleged lawbreaking activities brings the duplicitous nature of police corruption into stark contrast.
Though the accusations against Roane are fresh and unproven, the evidence is weighty, based on the FBI’s observations of her conduct and interactions with what court documents call a “Confidential Human Source” (CHS) who she first approached, but who thereafter conspired with her under the FBI’s watchful eye. She thought the CHS was a high-level drug dealer with a job as a tax preparer and she allegedly offered to provide protection for his supply-side drug transactions while also getting him names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers from law enforcement databases which she thought he would use to file fraudulent tax returns.
On the afternoon of April 24, Roane was on the job, patrolling the 500 block of South Catherine Street—an area of the Mill Hill neighborhood known for drug activity—with another officer, Richard Pinheiro, when she noticed a woman, 33-year-old Sariah Parker, enter the yard of a vacant house that had previously been the target of burglaries.
When the two officers got out of their patrol car and entered the yard, court documents say, they heard voices coming from inside the house, so Pinheiro knocked on the back door. A man—48-year-old John Toomer—opened the door and said he lived there, and while the officers waited for him to produce verification, they saw Parker and another man, 24-year-old Ricky Warren, standing around the kitchen table. After admitting he couldn’t prove he lived there, Toomer took two gelatin capsules out of his pocket and put them on the kitchen table, and all three people were placed in custody.
In a subsequent search, Roane and Pinheiro recovered from the suspects two sandwich bags of pot, a pill container with six ziplock bags of crack, 10 gelatin capsules of heroin, and a folded-up piece of paper containing heroin, according to court records. All three have criminal convictions in their past—including an armed-robbery conspiracy for Parker—and Warren has since been charged in two separate Baltimore City circuit court cases involving drugs and weapons charges. On the day before the federal charges against Roane were made public, though, state prosecutors declined to proceed with the case against Parker, Toomer, and Warren.
The same day Roane and Pinheiro arrested the three drug suspects, the FBI says Roane called and texted the CHS to arrange payment for having previously provided the CHS with the identification information of 10 people so that fraudulent tax returns could be prepared in their names. The payment occurred later that day, in front of Roane’s Pikesville house while Roane wore a tan bandana and a white T-shirt, according to court documents.
“Roane expressed her displeasure at only receiving $1,500,” court documents state, since “she thought she would have received $3,000,” but she stated that “she was preparing for next tax season and wanted to provide CHS with the names earlier in the tax season.” The money, she said, would be used “to pay her traffic tickets.” When the CHS said he would soon need her protection during a drug meeting in the upcoming week, Roane said “she was still working evenings next week and would be able to assist CHS during the meeting.”
On the day of the meeting, April 30, the CHS called Roane to explain the details—to look for a certain brown Ford Explorer in the parking lot of the Westside Shopping Center and that the CHS “would pay her for her assistance,” according to court documents. Roane texted back: “Ok sound good.”
When the time came, Roane called the CHS to say she saw the Explorer—in which agents had placed “a blue backpack containing a brick-shaped package of white powder wrapped in tan tape which resembled a kilogram of heroin,” according to court documents—and then she drove a patrol car, with another woman in plain clothes and a yellow baseball cap in the passenger seat, and parked behind the Explorer. The CHS then drove up, took the backpack out of the Explorer, and drove away, as did Roane and her passenger.
Minutes later, Roane, now alone and in a different patrol car but still in uniform and carrying her holstered service firearm, met the CHS in the 400 block of South Longwood Street. There, according to court records, she “hugged” the CHS, “acknowledged that she saw CHS retrieve the bag,” and received $500 in payment for her services.
Later, according to court records, the CHS texted Roane: “Wassup lady dat my bag was real good it’s was a fucking whole boy for 60K thanks boo the time hope u can start helping me more and I will bless ur pocket So we cool.” Roane texted back: “awesome…. Yup.”
Also on April 30, Roane and Pinheiro were again patrolling the 500 block of South Catherine Street, which is right next to the Westside Shopping Center parking lot where she’d provided protection for the CHS. As they were driving in the patrol car, they noticed a man who, when he noticed them, quickly stepped out of their view into the yard of a vacant property.
Roane and Pinheiro got out of their patrol car, approached the man, 61-year-old Richard Floyd, and eventually found he had a baggy of suspected crack and a gelatin capsule of suspected heroin in a small container attached to his key ring. Floyd—whose record of petty, drug-related criminal charges in Baltimore City stretches back nearly 20 years and suggests he has long struggled with substance-abuse problems—was once again charged with drug possession. He’s scheduled for trial in August.
Thus, if the charges Roane is facing are proven true, on April 30 she thought she was using her police powers to facilitate the distribution of addictive drugs in Baltimore. And on that very day—and in nearly the same location—Roane’s routine policing handed Floyd yet another entry on his ever-growing rap sheet that appears to have resulted largely from the distribution of addictive drugs in Baltimore. That would be a perverse and cynical twist on the “good cop/bad cop” routine.