A convicted former Baltimore police detective broke down on the witness stand Tuesday when asked about an incident in which the FBI secretly recorded members of the Gun Trace Task Force as they fled the scene of a car crash and spoke of falsifying their time sheets to make it seem that they were never there.
Former Detective Jemell Rayam said the officers had chased the car that got hit.
“It was bad. It was a bad accident,” Rayam said.
Turning to the jury, he said: “It could’ve been any one of us, any one of you; my mother, my father.”
The FBI hid a microphone inside their vehicle, and jurors on Tuesday heard the recording as Rayam returned to the stand on the fourth day of testimony in the federal racketeering trials of fellow officers Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor.
Rayam, who has pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges, is one of four officers cooperating with the government and testifying in hopes of reducing their sentences.
Rayam’s plea agreement outlined several crimes in the past few years, but in interviews with the FBI and on the witness stand he has admitted that his crimes stretched back at least nine years.
Among them, Rayam admitted Tuesday to receiving money from a robbery of $11,000 in 2009, and then lying to internal affairs, in a case The Baltimore Sun wrote about in December after obtaining the case’s internal affairs file. Rayam had been charged with lying but was cleared of wrongdoing by an internal disciplinary panel and put back to work on the Gun Trace Task Force.
Rayam also told the FBI that his longtime partner, Detective Momodu Gondo, told him he had once gone with an associate to buy a gun that was used in a murder, and had been involved in shootings himself before he became a police officer and had “laid someone out.”
Gondo was shot in 2006 outside his home while wearing his uniform but off-duty, a case in which a man was charged, tried and acquitted. Rayam told the FBI that Gondo told him the shooting was not related to being a police officer, but was “actually in retaliation for drug trafficking,” Taylor’s defense attorney, Jenifer Wicks, said.
Gondo has pleaded guilty to both racketeering and for his role in a drug organization, and is expected to be called as a witness for the government later in the trial.
Before promotion to Gun Trace Task Force, Baltimore detective was ensnared in $11,000 theft case
The shocking disclosures were just the latest to emerge in the trial, revealing allegations of everyday misconduct by the officers as well as brazen crimes. Federal prosecutors have called the officers “both cops and robbers.”
City prosecutors have dropped about 125 cases as of December involving the gun task force officers. Deborah Katz Levi, of the Maryland public defender’s office, said the number should be far higher because the officers handled many more cases and their integrity is compromised.
“Based on the testimony earlier in the week, our numbers grew to approximately 3,000 tainted cases, dating from 2011 forward,” she said. “We anticipate that the number of affected convictions will grow significantly.”
Two men who were robbed by members of the unit also testified Tuesday.