2 Detroit cops in drug case convicted of extortion

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

A federal jury convicted two Detroit police officers of felony extortion Monday, but cleared them of nine other charges in a five-week trial that accused them of arranging drug transactions with civilians so they could rob and extort them.

David Hansberry and Bryan Watson, members of the now-disbanded narcotics unit of the Detroit Police Department, face 20 years in prison on charges of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion and robbery.

Hansberry, 35, and Watson, 47, were indicted in April 2015 by a federal grand jury on charges of carrying out traffic stops and fake arrests to allegedly steal drugs, money and property.

Indicted but cleared in the case was Kevlin “Omar” Brown, a longtime friend of Hansberry.

Defense attorneys for all three men declined comment after the verdict Monday afternoon.

U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said the evidence showed Hansberry, who was a sergeant at the time, and Watson failed to log into evidence money and drugs seized during searches of homes. Instead, they split the proceeds and arranged for the sale of the drugs, sharing the proceeds generated by the sales.

In one instance in July 2010, Hansberry and Watson participated in a drug seizure that netted more than $3 million, the largest cash seizure by the Detroit Police Department at that time. Only $2.2 million, however, was placed in the evidence room.

“These defendants tarnished the badge that is worn with honor by their fellow officers, using their power as police officers to steal money and drugs from criminals who have no recourse,” McQuade said. “In addition to betraying their trust to uphold the law, these officers also put back out onto the streets the drugs that they had seized so that they could split the proceeds. Their greed caused them to poison our neighborhoods with drugs and to diminish public trust in police.”

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said on Monday the vast majority of the men and women of the Detroit Police Department are honest and hard-working.

“But these defendants betrayed their oath and their fellow officers. We are committed to the highest standards of integrity, and we will remove any officers who do not live up to those high standards,” Craig said.

Hansberry, a 16-year veteran, and Watson, who spent 22 years on the police force, were suspended without pay after the indictments were filed last year.

Prosecutors said in November they were concerned about the safety of witnesses in the case, and had to relocate them, according to court transcripts obtained by The News. One witness was shot while driving in Metro Detroit, prosecutors said.

The allegations against the two cops came as Detroit Police were conducting an internal investigation into widespread wrongdoing in the Narcotics Section, which prompted Craig to disband the unit.

Sentencing is Nov. 11 before U.S. District Judge Stephen J. Murphy III.