A federal judge has slashed to 20 years the 315- and 139-year prison sentences of two Baltimore police officers convicted in 2006 of drug distribution and gun offenses, citing the “gross disparity” between their lengthy prison terms and the more relaxed punishment they would face today for their crimes.
U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang reduced William King and Antonio Murray’s de facto life sentences based on the “extraordinary and compelling reasons” that federal law now prohibits the stacking of 25-year mandatory sentences for brandishing a firearm during a drug trafficking offense, for which the former officers were convicted.
“King and Murray were corrupt Baltimore City police officers engaged in an extensive scheme to abuse their authority as police officers to rob drug dealers, arrange for the sale of their drugs, and receive a share of the profits,” Chuang wrote in a memorandum opinion Monday.
“Beyond the number of incidents, the presence of firearms, and the trafficking in controlled substances during those offenses, this crime is particularly heinous because of the betrayal of the public trust that defendants perpetrated,” Chuang added. “By violating their oath and using their badges to commit rather than thwart crimes, defendants contributed to a culture of corruption in the Baltimore City Police Department during the relevant time period that has had extremely detrimental effects on the community.”
Nevertheless, under present law, the stacking of Section 924 (c) charges relating to using a gun in a drug crime against each officer that resulted in 25-year mandatory sentences can no longer occur, Chuang wrote.
Under current practice, federal prosecutors “almost certainly” would not have stacked the 13 Section 924 (c) charges against King and the six Section 924 (c) charges against Murray in the same prosecution, Chuang wrote, Instead, prosecutors would have likely charged only a single Section 924 (c) count, added Chuang, who sits in the federal courthouse in Greenbelt.
“Even if additional Section 924 (c) counts were charged in this particular case, where those counts would presently result in only five-year mandatory consecutive sentences, the result would be a gross disparity between” the sentences they received then and would have received now, he added.
In reducing the sentences, Chuang noted that King and Murray had no prior criminal record and no disciplinary problems in prison, where they each took many self-improvement courses. King had also served honorably in the U.S. Army and had the support of family members while imprisoned, Chuang added.
“Mr. King is extremely grateful for the court’s action, recognizing that his initial sentence was unwarranted by today’s standards,” said King’s attorney, Steven H. Levin, of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP in Baltimore. “Over the past 16 plus years, Mr. King has made significant efforts to rehabilitate himself through programs within the Bureau of Prisons and has expressed sincere remorse on numerous occasions. Because of the court’s action, Mr. King, an Army veteran, hopes that he can once again contribute to society in a positive way.”
Murray’s attorney, Andrew C. White, did not immediately return a telephone message Tuesday seeking comment on Chuang’s decision. White is with Silverman Thompson Slutkin & White LLC in Baltimore.
Acting Maryland U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner declined to comment on Chuang’s ruling.
Chuang issued his decision in United States v. William King, No. 1:05-cr-00203-TDC-1, and United States v. Antonio Murray, 1:05-cr-00203-TDC-2.