Pubdate: Sat, 18 Nov 2000
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2000, The Tribune Co.
Section: Florida/Metro page 6
Author: Paula Christian, Tampa Tribune
Related: and and and and and and and and and and and and


TAMPA - A Prosecutor Says A Federal Investigation Continues Into An Elite 
Manatee County Sheriff's Unit

Christopher Wilson became the fifth member of an elite unit within the 
Manatee County Sheriffs Office to plead guilty to planting evidence, and 
authorities say their investigation is not yet finished.

U.S. Magistrate Thomas Wilson accepted the plea Friday about a month after 
Christopher Wilson signed a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Wilson, 32, pleaded guilty to five charges, including violating civil 
rights and possessing and distributing crack cocaine. He could be sentenced 
to as much as 71 years in prison.

Wilson and his co-defendants belonged to a high-profile Manatee County 
sheriffs unit the Delta Task Force, that was created to combat a growing 
crack cocaine problem.

But according to investigators, Some Of its members became renegades and 
used their authority to frame innocent civilians so they could extort money 
or property from them.

The unit has been the target of a lengthy federal corruption probe, and 
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey DelFuoco said Friday, this is an ongoing 

Wilson pleaded guilty specifically to Planting crack cocaine in 1997 on a 
motorist named Scott Shepard. Then Wilson and other deputies falsely 
arrested Shepard for possessing crack so they could confiscate his Ford 
Mustang, Wilson's plea agreement says. Shepard was wrongly convicted and 
eventually sentenced to probation.

Wilson also admitted in the plea agreement to planting crack in the hotel 
room of an innocent woman named Sarah Smith. She too was falsely convicted 
and over time lost custody of her 1-year-old daughter. Smith has since 
regained custody and is suing the deputies who arrested her.

Along with the four other Delta unit members,  sixth deputy has pleaded 
guilty in the case, too. All the others are serving prison time.

Wilson is expected to be sentenced by February.
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