Pubdate: Sun, 17 Mar 2002
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The Buffalo News
Authors: Lou Michel, Dan Herbeck
Bookmark: (Corruption)


Darnyl Parker Conspired with an Informer, Jurors Say

Federal prosecutors got it wrong when they charged that a conspiracy 
existed between Darnyl Parker and three other Buffalo narcotics detectives, 
jurors in the just-concluded police corruption trial said Saturday.

But there was a conspiracy, they added.

Jurors said they found no credible evidence of a conspiracy involving 
Parker and Detectives David Rodriguez, John Ferby and Robert Hill.

Instead, jurors said the conspiracy involved Parker and Buffalo drug dealer 
Theodore Calhoun, who was acting as an FBI informer in the case.

"We found a conspiracy with Parker and Calhoun because Parker shared $7,000 
with Calhoun," said George Smith, a juror in the U.S. District Court trial, 
which ended Friday in a split verdict.

"It looked like they had no plan between the four of them. It was just 
Parker," said juror Samuel Hicks, a 20-year-old restaurant worker. "It was 
like the other detectives were there at the wrong time and got caught with 
the money. Everyone knew Parker was guilty."

After a hard-fought two-month trial, jurors convicted Parker on 10 felony 
counts, convicted Ferby and Hill on one felony theft count and acquitted 
Rodriguez on all counts.

The four former Buffalo police narcotics investigators were indicted two 
years ago on charges that they looted a West Avenue apartment and stole 
$36,442 cash from an undercover FBI agent posing as a drug dealer.

Federal agents started a sting operation aimed at the four cops after 
receiving information that some city officers were stealing money from drug 

The following points emerged during interviews with five jurorsand one 
alternate juror:

* Jurors agreed that Parker was the sole mastermind of the criminal 
activity, and they intentionally convicted him on the largest number of 

* Most jurors felt that the FBI and federal prosecutors did a good job in 
the case, but they were critical of the lack of audiotapes in two key 
incidents in January and February 2000.

* Some jurors said that Hill and Ferby would have been exonerated like 
Rodriguez if federal agents had not recovered thousands of dollars in 
stolen money from the two.

* Two jurors said they were shocked by the lack of supervision in the 
Buffalo police narcotics squad and said they hope the case will prompt city 
police officials to improve their supervisory procedures.

"They had no one to report to. They should have had someone to be 
accountable to," said Smith, a 54-year-old retired steelworker.

In reacting to jurors' comments, U.S. Attorney Michael A. Battle said he 
has "no regrets" about the way the case was pursued by his office and the FBI.

"All we did was go where the evidence took us. I'm very proud of the agents 
and prosecutors who handled this case," Battle said. "We got three 
convictions of corrupt police officers, and we sent a loud message to any 
law enforcement officer who might consider doing anything like what these 
officers did."

Parker and Conspiracy

Some of the jurors said they felt Parker was trying to hoard all of the 
stolen cash for himself and that was one reason they did not convict the 
other three cops of conspiracy.

"There was no doubt in anyone's mind on Parker," said Bonnie Theal, a 
44-year-old juror. "We all felt we did what was right." Of Parker's lack of 
reaction to the guilty verdicts, Theal said, "He knew he was wrong, so 
that's why there was no reaction from him."

She believes Hill would not have been convicted if he had not given FBI 
agents the $7,000 in marked bills after his arrest in March 2000.

"If Hill hadn't admitted to taking the money, we wouldn't have had evidence 
to convict him," she said. Smith took it a step further.

"Both Hill and Ferby would have walked if they hadn't had money, but Hill 
was honest about it, and that helped the case a lot to show there wasn't a 
conspiracy," Smith said.

FBI agents also recovered more than $2,000 from Ferby's North Buffalo home 
during a court-authorized search.

Smith said it would be wrong if Parker's lawyer, Mark J. Mahoney, asked 
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to set aside the guilty verdicts on 
the conspiracy charges against his client.

"I know Mahoney wants to throw out the conspiracy convictions, but we felt 
so strongly on that. The indictment didn't read this way, but we felt 
Parker did conspire with Calhoun," Smith said.

Mahoney, in reacting to the jury's reasoning, said that it erred in 
determining that a conspiracy existed between Parker and Calhoun.

"Legally you can't conspire with a government agent, and they were told 
that specifically in the instructions they received (from the judge)," 
Mahoney said late Saturday. "I expect the government will agree the 
conspiracy convictions, which originally charged Parker with the other 
three (detectives), will have to be dismissed."

And though Parker showed no emotion over the guilty verdicts, Mahoney said 
his client was "delighted that the other officers got the acquittals they did."

But Parker was less than happy over his own fate.

Parker, his lawyer said, was "disappointed, especially on the drug 
conspiracy charge" involving his son, William "Chill" Parker, and a cousin, 
Reno Sayles.

"There was no real connection between Sayles and the drugs he was intending 
to buy and William and Darnyl Parker," Mahoney said.

William Parker and Sayles met with Calhoun to arrange to buy thousands of 
dollars of cocaine during a meeting arranged by Darnyl Parker in the 
detective's home, according to testimony from the son and Sayles.

Jurors Critique the Case

Theal said the FBI did the best it could in building its case against the 

"If there had been some audio, it probably would have helped," she said of 
the videotape made of the officers robbing Kevin White, the undercover FBI 
agent, in February 2000 at Elmwood Avenue and Allen Street.

The poor quality of that videotape and another, according to Hicks, 
sometimes made it difficult to determine what was happening.

"Some of the facts they tried to point out to us you couldn't see," Hicks said.

But in one videotape made in January 2000 in a West Avenue apartment set up 
by the FBI to look like a Jamaican drug dealer's home, Smith said, he and 
other jurors were certain that Parker spotted money planted by federal 
agents under a mattress.

"We all agreed Parker saw the money, but didn't tell the other guys. I 
don't think Parker wanted to split anything up. We don't know why he didn't 
go back to the apartment for the money. There were a lot of unanswered 
questions," Smith said. Like other jurors, he felt the FBI built a 
reasonably solid case.

"They did a good job. They got the person they were after, Parker, although 
they wanted more," Smith said. "I thought the judge was very fair with 
lawyers on both sides. The trial was very emotional for us."

In June, Rodriguez's co-defendants will be sentenced. Parker faces seven to 
eight years in prison; Ferby and Hill face two to three years.

Anne E. Adams, Ferby's attorney, said that in her opinion federal 
prosecutors hurt themselves by making the case more complex than it had to be.

"The federal government takes a simple theft and tries to make it into 
something much more complicated," she said. Jurors reached their verdicts 
Friday afternoon, the third day of deliberations.

"We didn't want to hold the families of the defendants off until next week. 
It would have been hard on them to have to wait longer to figure out what 
the jury was going to do, and we had to get back to our things," Hicks said.

But, he added, if more time had been needed, the jury would have taken it.
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