Pubdate: Fri, 20 Apr 2007
Source: Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Copyright: 2007 Sun-Sentinel Company
Author: John Holland, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Four Hollywood [FL] police officers are ready to admit they brought a 
large shipment of heroin into the city, prosecutors said Thursday, 
but the men gave no hint whether they'll try to bring down others in 
a department long plagued by allegations of corruption.

Sgt. Jeffry Courtney, Detectives Kevin Companion and Thomas Simcox, 
and Officer Stephen Harrison pleaded not guilty to a single drug- 
trafficking charge in U.S. District Court on Thursday, almost two 
months after they were accused of running a protection racket for FBI 
agents posing as mobsters.

Shortly after the plea, Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Stamm 
announced the men will soon plead guilty to the charge, which could 
land them in prison for more than a decade.

Prosecutors said they will pursue no other charges against the 
officers. Neither the officers nor their attorneys would comment.

It was not known what information the officers will have to provide 
under terms of any plea agreement. Federal authorities initially 
accused the officers of multiple counts of corruption and drug charges.

Prosecutors and FBI agents have said that in late January, they 
convinced Simcox to work undercover as an informant as they tried to 
expand their investigation deeper into the department.

Those efforts collapsed in early February after someone leaked news 
of the investigation, forcing prosecutors to shut down the probe.

At Thursday's hearing, Simcox sat on the opposite side of the aisle 
from his colleagues while waiting for the case to be called, never 
exchanging words with the other men. Dressed in khakis and a short- 
sleeved, button-down shirt, his appearance differed sharply from that 
of his colleagues, who were in crisp, dark suits.

All four were named in a criminal information -- meaning they agreed 
to waive their right to a grand jury indictment -- accusing them of 
trafficking more than a kilogram of heroin in late 2006.

Until Thursday, prosecutors had been treating Simcox differently, 
letting him surrender a day after his alleged conspirators were 
arrested Feb. 22 and holding a separate hearing for him in March. But 
under federal guidelines, all men face prison terms ranging from 
about nine to 14 years if they plead to the trafficking charge.

They faced life sentences if found guilty of the original criminal 
complaints, which included running stolen diamonds from New Jersey to 
Florida, protecting loads of stolen cigarettes and operating as 
enforcers at a rigged, high-stakes card game on a yacht.

Police Chief James Scarberry said Thursday that he believes the four 
officers can provide no information to federal prosecutors because 
there is no more corruption in his department. And he reiterated that 
he won't discipline any ranking officers who supervised Courtney, 
Harrison, Simcox and Companion during their alleged crime spree, 
which FBI agents said lasted more than two years.

"We're all being punished. Everyone on this department has been 
punished by what these four officers have been accused of doing," 
Scarberry said. "We had one of our Internal Affairs lieutenants in 
court today, and we are monitoring the case."

Besides lengthy prison sentences, the four officers are almost 
certain to lose their pensions, said Dick Brickman, Police Benevolent 
Association president. Brickman also serves on the Hollywood Police 
Pension Board of Trustees, along with Sgt. Cathy Marano, who was the 
direct supervisor for Simcox and Companion.

"Once they are convicted, then there really is no choice under state 
law," Brickman said. "I don't see any chance they will get their 
pensions. We have a fiduciary responsibility to our members to vote 
according to what our lawyers advise, and the law is very clear."

The one question hovering over the investigation and possible plea 
deal is who leaked news of the probe. FBI agents informed Scarberry 
in January, and he said he relayed the information to eight people: 
his command staff, Mayor Mara Giulianti and City Manager Cameron Benson.

Scarberry said Thursday that the information was leaked to Courtney 
and insisted federal investigators -- not Hollywood officers or 
officials -- were responsible.

"I just hope that when the real source of the leak comes out, the 
same people who have been accusing me and the department will be just as
quick to say we did nothing wrong," Scarberry said.
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