Philadelphia cop charged in Gun Trace Task Force case asks for pre-trial release
Philadelphia police officer charged as part of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force case is asking a judge to release him from pretrial detention, saying authorities lack evidence and are going on the word of a corrupt officer.
But in a subsequent motion filed later Friday, federal prosecutors laid out evidence against the officer, Eric Troy Snell, including text messages and cell site location data, and said cocaine and an “arsenal” of unregistered firearms were found during the execution of a search warrant on Snell’s residence.
Snell, a former Baltimore police officer, was charged in November, about eight months after members of the city’s Gun Trace Task Force were indicted on federal racketeering charges for stealing from citizens and earning fraudulent overtime pay.
Snell is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine for conspiring to sell drugs with former Baltimore detective Jemell Rayam, who pleaded guilty and has been cooperating with the government.
Snell was ordered held until his trial in October, and in a motion filed Friday criticized the government case and asked to be released.
“I am being accused of committing the crime solely on the anecdotal testimony of Jemelle Rayam … a non-credible and a corrupt witness in this case,” Snell wrote in a letter accompanying a motion filed by his defense attorney.
“The government lacks physical evidence to link me with the alleged conspiracy,” he continued. “I feel as though the prosecution is being vindictive due to me being a police officer, and me taking an oath to protect and serve should not be the reason I’m in this ordeal.”
Rayam, who is among at least four convicted officers who are cooperating with the government, said he has told the truth about his crimes in an effort to do the right thing and clear his conscience, as well as potentially reduce his prison sentence.
Snell met Rayam in the Baltimore police training academy in 2005 and left the force in 2008. He joined the Philadelphia Police Department in 2014.
In October 2016, prosecutors say, Rayam and former Sgt. Wayne Jenkins chased a car that crashed near Mondawmin Mall, and the officers recovered a large amount of cocaine. Prosecutors said in Friday’s filing that body camera footage shows the officers recovering what appears to be half a kilogram of drugs, but only a small amount was submitted to evidence control.
Prosecutors say Rayam and Jenkins discussed selling the drugs and sharing the profit, and Rayam reached out to Snell. Jenkins has pleaded guilty to racketeering charges.
Phone records show them in contact, and Rayam allegedly traveled to Philadelphia, where he gave the drugs to Snell and they worked out a plan that involved Snell’s brother. In a text message sent the day after the cocaine seizure, Snell wrote to Rayam, “Yo it’s 90? O,” which prosecutors say was code for nine ounces of cocaine. Later in the month, Snell sent his home address in a text message, and records show both of their cellphones hit off towers near Snell’s home later that day.
According to the indictment, Snell deposited thousands of dollars in cash in Rayam’s bank account from the sales of illegal drugs. Jenkins was to be cut in on the profits, prosecutors allege, and in one text Rayam told Snell “my [sergeant] is driving me crazy,” a reference to Jenkins calling for the collection of payment.
Snell told the FBI that the money he put in Rayam’s bank account was gambling proceeds and a loan, according to a memo outlining the conversation.
Prosecutors say Rayam and Snell also collaborated on a heroin deal, and that text messages between Snell and his brother “confirm that the two of them continued to sell drugs.” Snell’s brother is not named and not charged in the indictment.
In support of Snell’s request to be released, his attorney and his wife note that he attended a Christian high school in Philadelphia and earned a bachelor’s degree from Liberty University, and is 12 credits short of a master’s degree in criminal justice. He spent five years in the Army National Guard.
“Eric always thinks of the consequences of things — which is why he’s never cheated, lied, or stole,” his wife wrote in a letter to the court. “He believed God blesses those that blessed others, and always strived to respect people, life and liberty.”
Solomon said the amount of drugs Snell is accused of trafficking is otherwise no greater than the “overwhelming majority” of drug cases in federal court, and he should be released.
She said he is “being accused of something he’s not capable of.”
Snell’s trial is scheduled for Oct. 29. He is being detained while awaiting trial in part because prosecutors said Snell told Rayam that he would look after Rayam’s kids, which Rayam interpreted as a threat.
Snell’s defense attorney, David Solomon, says in Friday’s court filing that he has since listened to the call and there is “nothing in [Snell’s] statement or the tenor of his voice that would suggest that this was anything but an overture on [Snell’s] part to help Rayam’s family out during a time of need.”