Pubdate: Fri, 25 Jan 2008
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2008 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author: Rhonda Cook, Bill Rankin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Businesses Paid Officers Directly for Extra Patrols. Crime Pushed to 
Owners Who Didn't Pay, U.S. Attorney Says.

A former Atlanta police officer pleaded guilty Thursday to extortion 
charges that were uncovered in the ongoing federal investigation of 
the fatal shooting of an elderly woman during a botched drug raid in 2006.

Daniel Betts, who resigned from the force shortly before his plea, 
admitted accepting payoffs in exchange for extra patrols. Betts and 
other officers would give business owners their phone numbers so if 
there was trouble, the owners could call the officers directly, not 911.

"He was receiving money from a business in a high-crime area for 
doing nothing other than what he was supposed to do as a police 
officer," U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said after the plea. "Instead 
of calling 911, you could call your private 911."

Moreover, the officers, by giving increased patrols to some 
businesses, pushed crime to businesses that were not giving payoffs, 
Nahmias said.

Betts, 26, worked as an Atlanta police officer nearly five years. He 
got involved in the illegal payoff scheme after a former narcotics 
officer, Gregg Junnier, pleaded guilty last year for his role in the 
killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston.

After his plea, Junnier admitted to his role in the extortion scheme 
and apparently fingered Betts. Junnier, as part of his plea 
agreement, is cooperating with federal and local authorities. Betts' 
cooperation with federal investigators will be considered when he is 
sentenced April 4.

On Thursday, Betts told U.S. District Court Judge Julie Carnes he 
initially didn't see anything wrong in collecting payments from an 
unidentified apartment complex.

"I do now," he added.

After the hearing, Betts' attorney, William McKenney, said Junnier 
"is dragging everyone into this."

McKenney called the extortion charges against Betts unprecedented and 
said the Police Department usually handles such matters administratively.

Betts did not know the payments were illegal because he was working 
off-duty one day a week for those businesses, McKenney said.

The FBI learned last June that Junnier was collecting $400 to $700 a 
week from a business owner who would phone for him instead of calling 
911, assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine said. When confronted with 
that information, Junnier told authorities about the other businesses 
he received payoffs from.

After Junnier was suspended in the days following the Johnston 
shooting, another officer began collecting money from the owner of an 
apartment complex, Erskine said at Thursday's plea hearing.

The extra patrols stopped, however, so the business owner was not 
getting anything for the extra money, the prosecutor said. In July 
2007, the business owner, whose identity has not been disclosed, 
allowed authorities to secretly tape-record officers collecting the payoffs.

On several occasions, Betts came to collect money, authorities said.

McKenney said Betts picked up about $120 a week and shared it with 
another officer.

Nahmias wouldn't name that officer but said, "He knows who he is. We 
know who he is. We'll see what happens."

Gregory Jones, special agent in charge of the Atlanta FBI office, 
said there was no evidence such extortion schemes were systemic in 
the Atlanta Police Department, but Betts' actions "taints their shield."

The ongoing FBI probe began after plainclothes Atlanta drug officers 
broke down the door to Johnston's house and shot her in her living room.

Two officers, Junnier and Jason R. Smith, have pleaded guilty to 
state voluntary manslaughter charges and one federal charge. A third 
officer, Arthur Tesler, goes on trial on lesser charges in April. 
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