Pubdate: Wed, 31 Jan 2001
Source: Austin American-Statesman (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Austin American-Statesman
Contact:  P. O. Box 670 Austin, Texas  78767
Fax: 512-445-3679
Author: Jonathan Osborne, American-Statesman Staff


The U.S. attorney's office will review a mid-1990s investigation of a drug 
smuggling network that linked several Austin police officers to drug 
activity, an agency official said Tuesday.

Lead investigators have claimed that the Austin Police Department cut the 
inquiry short by transferring officers to other duties. In addition, three 
officers filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the City of Austin claiming 
they were transferred to halt the investigation into police misconduct.

The review of documents will be done to determine whether the investigation 
- -- code-named Mala Sangre (Bad Blood) -- was properly handled, the official 

Also Tuesday, the head of the 1,100-member police union said the department 
must take seriously a Mala Sangre report in which informants said several 
Austin police officers had conspired with drug smugglers and used cocaine 
on the job.

"No officer down here wants to work with a cloud of suspicion hanging over 
the department," said Detective Mike Sheffield, president of the Austin 
Police Association. "These are very serious allegations. It is hoped that 
our department would investigate allegations of this nature fully and 
completely. All officers should be held to the same standard of conduct."

The Police Department has denied that officers were reassigned to shut down 
Mala Sangre, an effort by a task force that included the U.S. attorney's 
office and the Internal Revenue Service. Austin police provided support 
staff and officers for surveillance and other investigative tasks.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Marshall, who supervised Mala Sangre, 
testified in a February 2000 deposition that the Police Department began 
pulling officers from the task force about the time some officers were 
implicated in wrongdoing. Marshall has refused to comment about the case.

Mala Sangre's lead investigators -- IRS agent Wayne Young and Austin 
officer Stan Farris -- wrote a "summary of allegations" and a chronology 
listing possible police misconduct that couldn't be fully investigated 
without Police Department support, according to a Monday report bythe 
Austin American-Statesman.

Assistant Police Chief Rick Coy said Tuesday that the Police Department did 
not pull officers from the task force without replacing them and that 
Farris and Young, not the department, stopped the investigation.

"We at no time -- not in March (1997), not in July (1997) -- pulled 
people," Coy said. "Stan Farris and IRS stopped the investigation before we 
ever did that. We were replacing people, and IRS did not want us to replace 
Stan Farris with another officer. We had no intentions of stopping this 

Coy produced a July 22, 1997, memo from Farris to police Lt. Don Bredl in 
which Farris writes that the Austin investigation of officers will be 
dropped because "placing a new officer (APD) into coordinating the 
investigation would not be practical or effective as far as successfully 
completing the investigation."

Farris said he wrote the memo to establish on the record that transferring 
him off the investigation effectively killed it.

"The memo says that because the Austin Police Department was transferring 
me, the resources were being withdrawn, the investigation . . . was being 
closed," he said.

Farris, one of the plaintiffs in the whistle-blower lawsuit, spoke publicly 
about the case for the first time Tuesday.

He said he and other investigators had information that two officers were 
aiding Austin-based drug dealer Roger Lopez, who was convicted of drug 
trafficking in 1998 and sentenced to seven years in prison. But, Farris 
said, a supervisor ordered him to stop investigating in June 1997, a month 
before he was transferred from the narcotics division, where he had served 
for 10 1/2 years.

"There was enough evidence and information on these two officers for the 
investigation to continue," Farris said. "Obviously, we didn't have enough 
to indict. We needed, for the federal conspiracy statute, more of an 
affirmative link to Roger Lopez or any of the other people doing the 
smuggling. We were not afforded that opportunity."

Coy said Farris was never ordered to stop investigating. The assistant 
chief also said it was difficult to believe that transferring a handful of 
officers could shut down a federal investigation.

"With Mark Marshall and all of these resources, one or two APD cops kept 
this entire investigation from being successful," Coy said. "I find that 
very hard to believe."

Robert Pitman, the Austin bureau chief of the U.S. attorney's office, said 
his office works closely with the Austin Police Department and that many of 
the cases his office prosecutes result from officers' hard work.

"It's important to stress that we have full confidence in the Austin Police 
Department," Pitman said.

Mayor Kirk Watson said he was comfortable with how the department handled 
the report and with the leadership of Police Chief Stan Knee, who arrived 
on the job after Mala Sangre had wound down.

"Any time allegations are made of that nature, it creates concern, and you 
want people to get to the bottom of it," Watson said. "I trust that this 
chief who inherited this has . . . taken a thorough approach."
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