Attorneys for ex-Detroit cops file for new trial

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Attorneys for two convicted ex-Detroit cops filed a motion for a new trial Monday, alleging the government intentionally withheld evidence during their federal trial.

The motion claims U.S. prosecutors kept the jury from learning the identity of a man discussing on a recording how two dope dealers, not police officers, had stolen nearly $1 million in cash that had been confiscated in a 2010 drug bust.

Former Detroit Police narcotics officers Lt. David Hansberry, 37, and Bryan Watson, 48, were convicted in July of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion and robbery. They had been accused of several crimes, including arranging drug deals and then stealing money, dope and property, although a jury acquitted them of nine of the charges following a five-week trial.

The ex-cops, who were suspended without pay after the indictments were filed last year, are scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Stephen J. Murphy III.

Monday’s filing by Hansberry’s attorney Michael Harrison, joined by Watson’s attorney Steve Fishman, focuses on the testimony of an alleged drug dealer Gary Jackson, a police informant who in 2010 told cops 100 kilos of cocaine had been brought into Detroit by the Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel.

Because of the tip, the cops reported confiscating $2.1 million in cash from the dealers, touted by department officials at the time as one of the largest seizures in DPD history. But the government alleged the officers actually seized $3 million and under-reported the amount.

The informant told the feds Hansberry and Watson stole the money. In Monday’s filing, the officers’ attorneys claim the informant falsely testified it wasn’t his voice on a taped conversation discussing how two fellow drug dealers had stolen the unreported cash.

“At trial, the defense theory was that (dope dealers) Little and Old School were the ones who stole the money,” Hansberry’s attorney, Harrison, wrote. “This theory was supported by a ... recording made on May 6, 2014 on which Gary Jackson told (an acquaintance named) Deke that they stole the money.”

Jackson testified during cross-examination it wasn’t his voice on the recording of a phone call that was intercepted by the DEA.

“When Mr. Jackson made that claim, the government, despite knowing full well that it was in fact Mr. Jackson’s voice, did not so inform the court,” Harrison wrote. “Instead, it objected to further cross-examination concerning the tape recording on the ground that it had not been authenticated by Mr. Jackson.

“Objecting to the call where Jackson’s voice was recognized by the government was misleading to this court and damaged the defense,” Harrison wrote.

The officers’ attorneys say prosecutors acknowledged knowing it was Jackson’s voice in a Jan. 12 post-sentencing filing, in which an FBI agent verified it was Jackson who had been recorded.

“If (the agent) could identify Jackson’s voice on January 12, 2017, it would have been reasonable for this court (or, had it been played during trial, the jury) to conclude that the government, or ‘prosecution team,’ identified the voice of Gary Jackson in that telephone call as it played in open court on June 29, 2016,” Harrison wrote.

Monday’s motion follows the news last week that four Wayne County assistant prosecutors wrote letters to a federal judge, asking for leniency in sentencing Hansberry. Prosecutor Kym Worthy called the letters inappropriate.