Minneapolis police officer surprises court with guilty pleaby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis police officer Mike Roberts pleaded guilty to four charges in U.S. District Court Thursday afternoon. He will likely face prison time after admitting to the unauthorized use of a protected computer and filing three false tax returns. Roberts supporters say the loss of the 28-year veteran of the police force is a blow to the community he served.
St. Paul, Minn. — The plea agreement halted the corruption trial of officer Mike Roberts. For the past week, a jury had been listening to testimony in the case.
In August 2007, Roberts twice met with a man he knew was a gang member. On one occasion the man, a convicted felon named Taylor Winthrop Trump, asked Roberts to use a police computer to find the name and address of a rival gang member.
Trump was also an FBI informant and he was secretly videotaping the meetings.
But the corruption charges weren't the only legal trouble Roberts faced. There were also tax charges, that Officer Roberts had failed to report more than $75,000 in income from off-duty security jobs during a three-year period. A separate trial was scheduled for later.
Defense attorney F. Clayton Tyler says Roberts decided to plead guilty because he didn't want to put his family through the stress of another trial.
Roberts faced Judge Richard Kyle, as the judge read the charges in the plea agreement. The officer stifled sobs as he whispered, guilty to each one.
The agreement stipulates that Roberts cannot appeal his sentence if he receives 16 months in jail or less. Tyler says he hopes the judge will be lenient.
Roberts didn't comment outside the courthouse afterwards. A lawyer with the U.S. Attorney's office also declined to talk with reporters.
Several of Roberts friends and family members sat in the gallery during the trial.
"Oh, it's a huge deal," said Terrence Roberts who works at a community center in north Minneapolis. "You see Mike everywhere, calming things down, telling kids, 'Hey, get off of that corner - let me ride back here again.' Talking to the kids parents - keeping them out of trouble, keeping them out of jail and not to have him there, that's a big blow to the community."
Roberts says says the loss of officer Roberts patrolling the northside is a big deal. He was also critical of the way he says the FBI ensnared officer Roberts. Especially the FBI's use of an informant.
"A snitch - to set up officer Roberts," he said. "They couldn't get him on a corruption charge, so they pinned the tax stuff on him - which I mean, that was automatic."
Roberts wound up as part of a larger FBI corruption investigation of the Minneapolis police department.
Taylor Trump, the informant who paid Roberts for information, also named five other officers. But the FBI only got enough to charge Roberts. And ultimately, the corruption charges didn't result in corruption convictions.
A Minneapolis police spokesman referred questions about officer Roberts' status to the Police Officer Standards and Training board.
A representative of the board says they will wait for a final copy of the charges which Roberts pleaded guilty to. However they say any felony conviction is an automatic revocation of an officer's license.
- All Things Considered, 05/14/2009, 4:48 p.m.