Two Texas police officers face potential life sentences without the possibility of parole after being accused of extortion of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. The officers, both 26 years old, were indicted on federal drug charges in front of a U.S. magistrate judge about a month after their arrests. The judge set bail at $50,000 for both suspects. Prosecutors assented to the suspect's conditional release, though such a move is unusual for suspect's facing life in prison.
According to the indictment filed against the suspects, the men agreed to use their authority as police officers to protect a shipment of cocaine as it was being smuggled through the state. The officers are accused of each accepting $1,000 in exchange for this protection as well as conspiring to acquire some of the cocaine and sell it in their Texas community. Both men were reportedly arrested without incident when they reported for work. While one officer is expected to plead not guilty, the other has not yet obtained legal representation.
A spokesperson with the police department where both suspects have worked since September 2010 said the officers will remain suspended with pay until the criminal case against them is resolved. The department's chief said that he "will never tolerate criminal misconduct" from any of his officers, arguing that charges targeting the suspects are not indicative of the officers on the force. He also noted that the department has been cooperating with federal agents in their investigation of the suspects and contended that the department's own internal policies and procedures "have proven effective in addressing these types of allegations."
If the suspects are found guilty of extortion under the Hobbs Act, each could face up to $250,000 in fines and 20 years in prison. Furthermore, the men could be sentenced to 10 years to life in prison with fines of up to $10 million if convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute.
Source: Chron, "2 HPD officers busted on drug charges," Dale Lezon and Dane Schiller, Jan. 28, 2013