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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesVIPD Cop Found Guilty on Weapons Charges; Faces Up to 11 Years

VIPD Cop Found Guilty on Weapons Charges; Faces Up to 11 Years

After nearly four hours of deliberation and initial rumors of a possible mistrial Thursday, jurors in federal District Court found VIPD Sgt. George Greene guilty of possessing two illegal handguns with defaced serial numbers.

Greene, 33, not only faces up to 11 years in prison and as much as $500,000 in fines for Thursday’s two-count conviction, but he must also return to the same courtroom on Monday to be retried on extortion, bribery and federal conspiracy charges in a separate but related police corruption case.

Thursday’s verdict signaled a long-awaited yet incomplete victory for Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kim Lindquist and Nolan Paige. The pair tried Greene and two codefendants in December on the original extortion and bribery charges but were forced to settle for a second chance when the jury failed to reach a verdict and those proceedings ended in a mistrial.

The verdict Thursday was also a tough blow to Greene and his family, who stood uneasily on one side of the courtroom at about 7:30 p.m. opposite federal agents who filled the other side of the gallery as Judge John E. Jones read the guilty verdict aloud.

Appearing shocked at the judgment, defense attorney Thurston McKelvin raised his hand and requested Jones to poll the jury—an unusual and uncomfortable process, as it singles out jurors who otherwise act and are referred to in court as a single body.

One by one the jurors stood alone and raised their hands, affirming that their verdict was indeed "guilty."

Incidental discovery

The weapons charges against Greene stem from Aug. 4, 2009, when Greene was originally arrested for allegedly plotting and acting with two codefendants—VIPD Capt. Enrique Saldana and Luis Roldan—to extort $5,000 from a known criminal the previous December.

Hours after that Aug. 4 arrest, federal agents searched Greene’s unmarked VIPD vehicle, where they found the two handguns stuffed inside white athletic socks, zipped up in a shaving kit and buried in a black backpack.

The guns, Greene said, were not his.

Greene testified Thursday that he and VIPD Sgt. Alan Lands had accidentally found the .38 caliber Colt revolver and loaded .380 Taurus semi-automatic pistol stuffed inside a paper bag in a cardboard box and left in a storage closet at VIPD’s Zone-A command.

“There were no tags or anything else associated with these weapons,” Greene said.

That happened in May, both Greene and Lands said Thursday.

But Greene admitted that he never documented his find or turned the illegally defaced weapons over as evidence or property from the time they were found in May until his eventual arrest on the unrelated charges in August.

Greene, who was a forensics supervisor and crime scene instructor assigned to the VIPD investigations bureau, said he briefly tried to locate a match for the weapons in the forensic unit’s firearms log. When that search turned up dry, he said he put the guns and ammunition back into the paper sack and locked them in his desk drawer for several months.

Greene said that in the VIPD, his actions constituted “securing” the weapons—one of which remained loaded. He defined “secured” as, “just putting it an area where you have access to it. That’s just about it,” he said.

No paper trail

Through numerous witnesses—including VIPD Police Chief Rodney Querrard and at least five other officers and technicians who have managed VIPD’s dispatch, forensics, evidence room and records operations—prosecutors showed how Greene failed to follow nearly every rule in the VIPD playbook by not “bagging and tagging” the guns, recording them in the system or even informing his supervisor.

Instead, he held the weapons in his possession for nearly four months until he was arrested and they were discovered in his vehicle.

Greene testified that they were in the car that day because earlier that morning he had decided to finally turn them in to a designated VIPD liaison who could then turn them over to the federal authorities.

“Was it because he was a rookie cop?” Paige asked the jury in his closing arguments Thursday. “No. It’s because Sgt. Greene was operating outside any legitimate law enforcement activity.”

In Greene’s defense, McKelvin said Greene held on to the guns because he was searching for a case or individual to connect them to. Since there was no case or investigation, McKelvin said, how could the weapons be considered as evidence to be logged according to regulation?

“Evidence to what? What crime? What incident? What investigation?” McKelvin asked during his closing remarks, emphasizing the fact that the weapons were found inside the police station.

“It wasn’t even a case,” he said. “What was Sgt. Greene supposed to do? Go to 911 (dispatch) and say, ‘I found some weapons in this store room here, and I want you to open a case.’”

A slip or a dodge?

Greene also testified that he didn’t have time to deal with the weapons. A vacation in June, followed by a short illness, followed by a busy July prevented him from turning the weapons in, he said.

He testified that about an hour before he was arrested on Aug. 4, he had removed the guns from the paper bag and stuffed them into the white socks, intending to turn them in to the federal liaison later that day.

Paige pounced on the coincidence. “By his own admission, four months passed and he did nothing,” Paige said.

“Do you then take it to the liaison with a straight face in the dirty socks? I’d like to hear that conversation,” Paige told jurors during his final remarks Thursday. “You ask yourself, ‘Is that common sense?’”

“You may say that he didn’t put it on the top of his list of priorities,” McKelvin said in his turn. “But that is not a crime. If it is, then we’d all be on the gallows somewhere.”

Covert cop or freelancer?

During the opening day of the trial Wednesday, two federal agents testified that, after his arrest, Greene had told them that he pretended to be a “dirty cop” to gain the confidence of criminals and solicit information on the streets. Word on the street that he had guns for sale drew “bad guys” in, he said. They agreed that his rogue tactics had worked in tracking down a murder weapon at least once.

The dirty cop defense played out on Thursday as McKelvin compared Greene’s deceptive actions to those of federal agents and police who dress in civilian clothes or travel in unmarked vehicles to hide their identity.

Police Chief Querrard , however, said any such covert operations would have to have his blessing and that he would have to report to the commissioner.

“There is nothing wrong with that (deception) in policing,” Querrard said, replying to McKelvin during cross examination Thursday. “But it has to be done under strict supervision,” Querrard said. “It’s not something that can be done solo.”

Greene used a similar psychological defense to explain away items found inside his vehicle alongside the illegal guns: a book entitled “The Art of Deception," a Barry Cooper DVD called “Never Get Busted Again,” and a ski mask with a skull on the front.

Explaining the mask as a training tool for police academy courses on crime scenes, Greene went on to justify the book and DVD as essential reading and viewing to be able to think like criminals in order to catch them.

He used a similar defense in the December extortion trial due for retrial next week.

“Sgt. Greene said he practices the art of deception,” Paige told jurors as he completed the prosecutions case Thursday. “You ask yourself if he was practicing his art on you today.”

Judge Jones did not set a date for sentencing.

Greene is expected back in court on Monday, Jan. 25, to face multiple federal and local charges alongside his codefendants, Saldana and Roldan.

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