Seattle Police Officer Charged in Large Coast-to-Coast Pot-Smuggling Operation

From left, Seattle Police Officers Alex Chapackdee, Jojo Cambronero, James Manning and Craig McRae do the Cupid Shuffle with the crowd at the Othello Park International Music and Arts Festival at Othello playground in South Seattle Sunday, August 19, 2012.

 reports: Veteran Seattle police Officer Alex Chapackdee is accused of helping his brother-in-law and others smuggle at least 100 kilograms of marijuana to the East Coast. In return, Chapackdee was paid $10,000 a month, charges allege.

Federal prosecutors will ask that a suspended Seattle police officer charged with being part of a large-scale East Coast marijuana smuggling ring be held in jail pending trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida set a detention hearing Friday for Alex Chapackdee, who faces a mandatory-minimum five-year federal prison sentence — and perhaps up to 40 years — for his role in allegedly transporting hundreds of pounds of marijuana from Washington to Baltimore then driving back with boxes of cash. The court also could impose a fine of up to $5 million if he’s found guilty.

Chapackdee, a veteran Seattle police officer, appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Seattle Monday afternoon along with three co-defendants named in a 15-page complaint unsealed Monday. He was arrested last Friday and suspended from duty without pay.

[Read the feds’ complaint against Le, Chapackdee, others (PDF)]

More than two dozens shocked friends and family members crowded Tsuchida’s courtroom during the brief hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Vince Lombardi said the serious allegations and significant penalty prompted him to seek detention for all four defendants. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Jurors Deadlocked in Freddie Gray Case

Officer William Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault

Jurors deliberating in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William Porter said Tuesday afternoon that they were deadlocked. The judge sent the jury back in and told them to continue deliberating.

The judge in the first trial related to the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray denied a new defense request for a mistrial Tuesday, as jurors began their second day of deliberations.

Defense attorneys for city police Officer William Porter — the first of six officers to be tried in Gray’s death from a neck injury sustained while in police custody — moved for the mistrial Tuesday morning, citing a letter about the case that Baltimore City Public Schools sent to parents a day earlier.

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“Whatever the jury decides, we must all respect the process. If some choose to demonstrate to express their opinion, that is their right, and we respect that right, and we will fight to protect it. But all of us today agree that the unrest from last spring is not acceptable.”

—  Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

The defense argued that the nonsequestered jurors could have received Monday’s letter, in which school district CEO Gregory Thornton addressed the possibility of civil unrest after a verdict is reached and the school system’s preparations for the verdict.

The defense also asked that the trial’s venue be changed. The judge rejected the requests.

The jury began deliberating Monday, 12 days after testimony began.

Authorities say Gray, a 25-year-old black man, broke his neck on April 12 while being transported in a police van, shackled but not wearing a seat belt. His death a week later sparked demonstrations and made him a symbol of the black community’s distrust of police.

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Prosecutors say Porter, one of three black officers charged in the case, was summoned by the van’s driver to check on Gray during stops on the way to a police station. They say he should have called a medic for Gray sooner than one was eventually called, and also should have ensured that Gray was wearing a seat belt.

Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.

For convictions on some or all of the first three charges, he would face no more than 10 years in prison combined. There is no statutory maximum sentence for the fourth charge, misconduct.

Ready for unrest

With a verdict possible this week, the city of Baltimore — which witnessed protests and unrest after Gray’s death — said it activated its emergency operations center Monday “out of an abundance of caution.”

Last week, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis cautioned the city to be respectful as the verdict gets closer. Read the rest of this entry »