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Miami Police officers’ convictions for providing protection to undercover drug dealer is upheld

Two Miami Police officers were charged and convicted in federal court with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine, for protecting drug couriers, and for possession of a firearm during and in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.  The investigation began with an F.B.I. investigation into police corruption in the Miami Police Department.  Posing as would-be drug dealers, the F.B.I.’s investigation focused on an officer named Anderson, who agreed to cooperate.  The F.B.I. created a reverse sting posing as drug dealers in need of protection for delivering drugs and money.

Wearing a wire, Anderson approached an officer named Schonton who agreed to give protection for the undercover drug dealer.  When Schonton was asked if she knew other law enforcement officers willing to participate, she suggested Kelvin Harris, who become involved in this reverse sting operation designed by the F.B.I.  Harris received money for his assistance from the undercover agent posing as a drug dealer.  The undercover F.B.I. agent told Schonton and Harris that more officers were needed for a bigger job, and the two officers also recruited Miami Police officer Archibald.  The F.B.I. set up an undercover sting that involved transporting 20 kilograms of cocaine that would arrive in Miami. The recruited officers provided protection by providing a police escort to the hotel where the undercover agents transporting the contraband.  All the officers were present when the drugs were unloaded and unpacked at the hotel.  Each paid $4,000.

Archibald and Harris went to trial in federal court.  Archibald claimed he did not know what was going on during the first sting operation.  He also argued he was entrapped then he met the undercover agents who scared him.   Harris testified in his defense claiming that while he realized Schonton and Anderson were involved in illegal conduct, he decided to conduct his own surreptitious but lawful investigation by infiltrating the drug operation.  The jury found Harris guilty on all counts and found Archibald guilty on most counts.

In their appeal they argued the evidence was insufficient to support any of their drug convictions, and Harris argued there was insufficient evidence to support his firearms conviction.

The court of appeals disagreed and found the government introduced more than enough evidence at the federal trial for the jury to find the defendants violated federal law prohibiting conspiracy attempted possession cocaine with intent to distribute.  The record was replete with statements by the defendants to the undercover agent and the codefendant officers that they were “all in” for the drug operation and ample evidence that they provided protection for the drug couriers.  The evidence showed that Archibald knew what he was doing when he took part in a drug operation and when the undercover agent old them that the couriers had moved “40 birds” and then paid each $2,500 in cash for their work.  The undercover agent also used terms such as “weight” and “powder” clearly indicating the substance they were handling.

The appellate court also found sufficient evidence to support Harris’s federal convictions for possession of a firearm in furtherance of the drug trafficking crimes.  Harris admitted to his coconspirator that he had to carry a pistol everywhere he went and was paid $9,000 to provide armed protection for the cocaine deliveries.

The court also rejected Archibald’s claim that his case should have been dismissed on the grounds of entrapment.  It found sufficient evidence to sustain the jury finding of predisposition to commit the offense.


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