- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2000

District of Columbia police Officer Andrew James McGill is on trial because he was not part of the "police culture" that forbids socializing with the "bad guys," his attorney told a U.S. District Court jury yesterday.

"Police culture creates a mentality of 'We're the good guys. The others are bad guys,' " said defense attorney William C. Brennan. "For Andrew, it was just a job, not his entire life."

Indeed, Officer McGill socialized with leaders of a drug gang, including riding motorcycles and jet skis, said Mr. Brennan. It was not wise, "but is that a crime?"

Trial began yesterday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., for Officer McGill on charges of conspiracy to deal drugs, auto theft and lying to a federal grand jury in August.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart A. Berman told jurors that evidence will show Officer McGill, 29, seldom made "jump out" arrests in the well-known open-air drug market in the unit block of Forrester Street SW in the years he was assigned to the 7th Police District.

After he was assigned to another district, officers saw him and his car in the Forrester Street area, Mr. Berman said.

Once, as police were staging a drug raid, Officer McGill said he had an emergency, made a telephone call and the raid failed to uncover any drugs, the federal prosecutor noted.

"He turned from law enforcer to lawbreaker," Mr. Berman said. "Andrew McGill was hanging out with the drug dealers."

Mr. Berman also said the D.C. vice officer lied to a federal grand jury on Aug. 18. Officer McGill "treated that subpoena with the same contempt he had shown for his oath as a police officer," he said.

Another former D.C. officer, Victor Kelly Jr., 32, also was charged with lying to the grand jury. He pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced Monday by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow to six months home detention, 100 hours of community service and two years of probation.

Ten women and five men were impaneled yesterday in Officer McGill's trial, which is expected to last about three weeks. Of the 12 jurors and three alternates, 10 are black, four white and one is believed to be Hispanic.

After numerous raids and 10 years of investigations, police and Drug Enforcement Administration agents in May 1999 successfully raided a drug outfit and found Officer McGill's name and telephone number among drugs and materials, Mr. Berman said.

The drug leader, Erskine "Pee Wee" Hartwell, a 32-year-old friend of Officer McGill's, and other gang members will testify against him, Mr. Berman said.

Mr. Brennan said their testimony is part of their "plea bargains," which will net the drug dealers light prison sentences if they say a "policeman did bad things."

The auto-theft charge stems from the theft of a sport utility vehicle belonging to former Washington Wizard basketball player Ben Wallace.

Mr. Berman said Officer McGill was cruising with a drug dealer when they saw the SUV "loaded with a huge stereo" parked at 14th and U streets NW near Howard University.

They stole the SUV and its contents, drove around the town and eventually crossed the state line into Fort Washington in Prince George's County, Md., where it was stripped for its parts, Mr. Berman said.

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