I-Team: Witnesses in police corruption case to testify soon

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Pimps, prostitutes, and police officers are all jumbled together in the mix of a four-year FBI investigation into alleged police corruption.

The 8 News NOW I-Team first broke the story in 2016 and the existence of the investigation has been confirmed by Metro Police and others. But the case has been quiet since February, so where does it stand?

When a long FBI investigation like this one goes into silent mode, that should not be viewed as a positive development by its targets.

The FBI does not comment about ongoing investigations, so we have pieced it together based on a trail of breadcrumbs, including court documents filed by two men who allege they were set up by police.

Next month, three days have been set aside to hear testimony related to the same allegations being pursued by federal agents, namely, that vice cops and others were in bed with sex traffickers, literally and figuratively.

The person assigned to represent the public in that upcoming hearing is not a fan of the scenario we’ve described.

“I’d ask that it be shut down now, judge,” said defense attorney turned special prosecutor Adam Gill on Nov. 18, 2017.

He was asking district Judge Michael Villani to boot the I-Team out of his courtroom. And then in a more recent appearance, in the same case, Gill is telling the court what he thinks of one of the I-Team stories.

“It seemed like pretty poor reporting.”

Gill finds himself in the odd position of trying to prevent a convicted pimp, Ocean Fleming, from getting a new trial, odd because Gill is usually in the opposite role — trying to keep defendants who work in the sex trade out of prison.  

A review of Gill’s criminal case load since 2014 shows that he is more than familiar with the murky world of pimps and prostitutes. As a defense attorney, his clients include those charged with the expected assortment of drug charges and property crimes, but a large percentage of his practice involves the sex industry. Dozens of clients charged with sexual solicitation, dozens more who’ve been trespassed — a tool used by hotels to banish hookers and several bigger fish, alleged sex traffickers and panderers.

When the I-Team asked Gill to comment about why he was selected to stand in the for the district attorney as special prosecutor in the two pimp cases, he declined to speak to us.

The reason a special prosecutor had to be appointed to oppose Ocean Fleming’s attempt to get a new trial is because the district attorney’s office had to recuse itself. It was pressured to do so, not only by Fleming’s attorneys, but also by lawyers for Raymond Sharpe, another pimp serving a life sentence.

Sharpe and Fleming have separately filed appeals alleging that the police and prosecutors who put them away conspired together, coached witnesses, and inflated the charges against them so they would be slammed with harsher sentences. 

Motions filed in the two appeals allege that several Metro officers, led by former star vice cop Chris Baughman, were secretly in the employ of escort service kingpin Jamal Rashid, better known by his hip hop name Mally Mall.

Baughman  and other Metro vice cops allegedly used their guns and badges to eliminate Mally Mall’s competitors, and in exchange they were paid in cash by Rashid and with sexual favors by the women who worked as prostitutes.

Sound far-fetched? That’s what Adam Gill thinks.

“When we have the witnesses on the stand, that’s when we will know what the witnesses say, not running around the country taking depositions about their speculative part in this dreamed up conspiracy,” Gill said.

Gill, and a private law firm hired by Metro, have fought tooth and nail to block Fleming’s lawyer Janiece Marshall from deposing several witnesses, including Mally Mall because — among other things — they say, the conspiracy is made up.

The district attorney’s office also made that same claim in court, right before it had to withdraw from both cases.

But it’s a conspiracy the FBI is taking seriously. Since the FBI’s public corruption team initiated a raid on Mally Mall’s home four years ago, the I-Team has learned of at least a dozen witnesses who have been interviewed by federal agents. The investigation is real, and ongoing, and appears to be pursuing the same allegations raised by Fleming and Sharpe. Both of those men were visited in prison by FBI agents.

In May, special prosecutor Adam Gill will be back in court to oppose a new trial for Ocean Fleming during a scheduled three-day evidentiary hearing.

“If Mr. Fleming is entitled to a new trial, he’s going to get one, and if he’s not, he’s not. It’s that simple,” said Judge Michael Villani during a Feb. hearing.

We do not know when or if federal prosecutors might announce charges resulting from the FBI investigation, but if indictments are handed down, they could add an entirely new element to the appeals process, for Ocean Fleming, Raymond Sharpe, and perhaps others who were sent to prison by the same cast of characters.

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