Judge: 15-year sentence for ex-leader of corrupt police unit
FILE – This undated file photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department shows police Sgt. Thomas Allers. The disgraced police sergeant who once led a rogue Baltimore police unit has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, Friday, May 11, 2018. Allers is the first member of the disbanded Gun Trace Task Force to be sentenced. He had pleaded guilty to nine robberies over roughly three years in a federal racketeering case focused on the unit.(Baltimore Police Department via AP)

BALTIMORE (AP) — A disgraced police sergeant who once led a rogue Baltimore police task force was sentenced Friday to 15 years in a federal lockup, becoming the first member of the brazenly corrupt unit to head to prison.

Thomas Allers had pleaded guilty to nine robberies during his time leading the Gun Trace Task Force. He served as officer-in-charge of the Baltimore unit for roughly three years before handing off to another sergeant who ramped up their criminal activities.

On Friday, there were gasps and tears in a federal courtroom as Allers, wearing a baggy jail jumpsuit, was sentenced in front of a gallery packed with his relatives and friends.

Allers, too, became emotional as his defense lawyer took the unusual step of reading aloud a suicide note he addressed to his wife that investigators found in his sock drawer at his home just after his arrest.

Shortly before his sentence was handed down, Allers stood at the defense table and told U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake that he had found God in jail and would live with the shame of what he did. He asserted he never meant to hurt anybody.

“I’m just praying for this nightmare to be over,” Allers said in U.S. District Court in downtown Baltimore.

His defense attorney, Gary Proctor, said Allers was an alcoholic, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from his years as a Baltimore officer and was a “great cop” for most of his law enforcement career. He said he would turn 50 next month in prison.

But U.S. prosecutor Leo Wise said Allers caused “irreparable harm” with his illegal activities, and his leadership position as sergeant made the Gun Trace Task Force’s crime possible during his tenure on the squad from 2014 to 2016.

“These were crimes motivated by greed,” said Wise, one of two U.S. prosecutors who has spent much of the last two years scrutinizing the task force, which he has described as a “perfect storm” of corruption.

Blake told the courtroom that Allers appeared remorseful and may well have once been an upstanding cop, but that did not change the fact that the crimes he pleaded guilty to made up a “very significant abuse of the public trust.”

Blake said that as a onetime leader of the unit, Allers joined in with corrupt activities and “emboldened what other people on the task force were doing.” She said sentencing had to deliver a clear message that police officers who break their oaths will be punished.

Earlier this year, a jury found two Gun Trace Task Force detectives guilty of robbery and racketeering in an explosive federal investigation that’s seen six disgraced law enforcers plead guilty. Several cooperated with the government in the case. Allers did not.

While the unit’s rogue detectives admitted to lying for years to cover their tracks, it’s an open question as to whether the force’s command structure had enough integrity to expose them. It was a federal investigation that brought them down.

Public defenders and State’s Attorney for Baltimore Marilyn Mosby say thousands of cases touched by members of the disbanded unit are now likely tainted. Scores of cases have been dropped so far. Many fear some hardened criminals will end up getting released.

Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist at the University of Baltimore, said it’s highly likely that “a certain percentage of them are going to want to get back in the game.”