Pubdate: Mon, 29 Oct 2007
Source: Yale Daily News (CT Edu)
Copyright: 2007 Yale Daily News
Author: Patrick Lee


Former Lt. White Changes Original Plea

Former New Haven Police Department Lt. William "Billy" White, who
headed the department's narcotics unit for more than a decade, pleaded
guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit bribery and theft of government

White's change of plea status -- he pleaded not guilty shortly after
his arrest last March -- may result in a lesser sentence than if had he
not changed his plea and had then been found guilty. White's decision
follows close on the heels of guilty pleas by former NHPD Detectives
Jose Silva and Justen Kasperzyk, two other subjects of the federal

Following White and Kasperzyk's arrest, the NHPD disbanded the
narcotics unit and the city hired the Police Executive Research Forum
to evaluate the NHPD. At forums since the original arrests, some city
residents expressed frustration with a department they said has lost
sight of community policing.

City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the three former police
officers do not represent the general conduct of the rest of New
Haven's police force.

"It's important for the community to understand that this is three
officers who did despicable things," Mayorga said. "These ... officers
do not represent the hard work of those 400 other officers."

White has been charged with one count of bribery conspiracy -- for
which he faces up to five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine -- and
two counts of government property theft, which could lead to 10 years
and $250,000 in penalties. White must also pay restitution for the
stolen federal and local funds and forfeit the money he gained from
the bribery conspiracy, which will total over $25,000.

But the guilty plea affords White the benefit of a potential reduction
of his Adjusted Offense Level, making 37 to 46 months imprisonment and
a fine between $7,500 and $75,000 the most probable punishment. White
is also subject to three years of supervised release after his prison
term ends.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation began its undercover operation in
July 2006, when a clandestine Connecticut State Police Sergeant began
working with White, the supervisor of NHPD's Narcotics Enforcement
Unit at the time. Several incidents -- including an FBI sting operation
on Jan. 31, 2007 -- confirmed White's participation in unlawful acts
and culminated in his indictment.

The FBI planted about $27,500 in a car with hidden cameras and
microphones during its sting operation, luring White to the scene with
a tip from the undercover agent's informant. During this first
encounter, White searched the trunk and removed $5,000 of the cash,
professing he would not steal all of the funds in order to protect the
informant's safety. But later in the day, White, thinking the money
belonged to a drug dealer, returned to the car and stole all of the
money, splitting the stolen funds with the unnamed undercover officer.

In at least two other instances while under FBI surveillance, White
made similar decisions to steal money from residences in New Haven
while executing search or arrest warrants. Both times, he split the
stolen money with the undercover agent.

In order to determine whether the guilty plea of his own accord and
not due to external threats, United States District Judge Janet
Arterton asked both White and his attorney, Hubert Santos, basic
questions about White's competence of mind.

White's attorney Hubert Santos said he had been having trouble
communicating with White due to the former officer's emotional trauma,
but Santos said White's ability to understand his legal situation was
not compromised.

"He is competent and understands exactly what the circumstances are,"
Santos said. "But he has been in [a] very bad state emotionally ... with
bouts of intermittent depression."

White did not acknowledge any difficulty in communicating with Santos,
but he did admit to seeing a psychiatrist and taking Zoloft, a
prescription antidepressant.

A 'Cowboy-Like' Cop

Ward 10 Alderman Ed Mattison, who interacted with White throughout his
career in the NHPD, said White's approach to countering the drug
problem in New Haven might have contributed to his legal and
psychological burn-out. Mattison said White would give out his cell
phone number and tell his fellow officers that he would show up
immediately if called anytime during the day or night.

"He had this notion ... that he was single-handedly [going to] wipe out
drug use in New Haven, and clearly that was not going to happen,"
Mattison said. "But his whole approach to the thing was cowboy-like in
that way ... He kind of saw himself as the savior, and as the savior,
anything he did was OK."

White's work in the NHPD drastically improved New Haven from its state
of affairs in the 1970s, when open-air drug markets in public areas
were common because the sheer number of drug dealers made it
impossible for the police to address the problem systematically,
Mattison said.

White responded "a la vigilante style," eventually forcing drug sales
into the private realm, Mattison said.

"People are grateful to him: This is a town that had a wide-open drug
trade, and he closed it down," Mattison said. "Because he was so
successful in that, he really did believe that he could solve the drug
problem ... when he wasn't out there being Rambo, he was a very charming
and interesting person ... [but] as often happens with saviors, they
forget what the limits are."

But Mattison said White's lack of strategies and priorities made him
more a part of the problem than the solution. In a modern context, the
availability of drugs is too prevalent for White's broad, sweeping
goals to affect the positive change they once did, he said.

As Chair of the Community Development Committee, Mattison said he
hopes White's example will spark community dialogue about specific
priorities to adopt in fighting the war on drugs.

"What we need out of the police department at this time is much more
transparency and much more willingness to talk about what the
priorities are -- what's the goal, and how we can tell if we've
accomplished it," he said.

But the Mayor's Office has more general goals in the aftermath of this
scandal, Mayorga said.

"It is tempting to say that this is the end of a sorry chapter, but we
need to learn from this experience and understand how this situation
was allowed to happen and corrupt other officers," Mayorga said. "This
doesn't end until we emerge as a stronger city government and police

New Haven officials are waiting for the final report of the Police
Executive Research Forum, an organization hired by the city to
comprehensively review its police operations. PERF released a
preliminary draft in August, and an independent panel appointed by the
city reviewed the recommendations. Mayorga said the city will begin
implementing aspects of the final report once it is released.

Kevin J. O'Connor, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and
Kimberly Mertz, the FBI Special Agent in charge of the investigation,
were both present at the proceedings. The case is being prosecuted by
Nora Dannehy and David Ring, Assistant U.S. Attorneys.

White's sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 14, 2008.
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