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Corrupt Officer in Philadelphia Gets 3-Year Sentence; Prosecutors Worry It Will Undermine Cooperation


May-June 1997

On March 21, former Philadelphia Highway Patrol Officer Allen L. Wilson was sentenced to prison for three years for stealing $43,000 from drug suspects. Wilson had confessed and was cooperating with prosecutors in their investigations of other officers in the Philadelphia Police Department (Joseph A. Slobodzian, "Ex-highway patrol officer jailed for thefts," Philadelphia Inquirer, March 22, 1997, p. B2).

U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III imposed a sentence near the top of the recommended sentencing range of 30 to 37 months. During the hearing, Wilson's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom contended, "Your honor, you did say you were going to depart from the guidelines." Bartle responded, "Yes, I depart one month for his substantial cooperation." The judge told Wilson that he wished he could have given him a longer sentence, saying that the sentence range recommended by the federal sentencing guidelines was "too lenient for the crimes that you committed." Bergstrom said that he is considering an appeal.

Officers involved in the 39th District police scandal have received long prison terms despite their cooperation. John Baird, the confessed leader of the corrupt officers, was given a 13-year prison sentence, which was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on March 18. The appeals court called Baird's corrupt conduct "as colossal as it is unprecedented."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Goldstein expressed concern that the trend of long sentences could undermine the cooperation of officers still under investigation. "The government is hoping and is moving for this court to meaningfully reward what has been meaningful cooperation," Goldstein told Judge Bartle.