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HomeNewsArchivesVIPD Cops Face New Jury as Retrial Begins Monday

VIPD Cops Face New Jury as Retrial Begins Monday

In a tedious rehashing of evidence for the benefit of a fresh jury and a second crack at justice, U.S. attorneys re-launched their case against VIPD Capt. Enrique Saldana, Sgt. George Greene and codefendant Luis Roldan in federal District Court on Monday, trying to settle once and for all whether $5,000 they accepted from a suspected drug dealer amounts to extortion or legitimate covert police work.
The trio was tried in December on the same litany of federal and local charges, ranging from extortion to money laundering. But after nearly three days of deliberation —- and an unsupervised weekend in between —- the jury failed to reach a verdict, forcing Chief Judge Curtis Gomez to declare a mistrial on Dec. 22.
Monday was day one of the retrial.
Although the entire cast of characters seemed already worn out as jury selection concluded around noon Monday, opening arguments proved that both sides were still sharp and that the stakes were still high.
“These three men indeed formed a conspiracy… to extort money from a suspected drug dealer,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Lindquist, “outside the realm of any legitimate law-enforcement activity.”
During his opening statements Monday, Lindquist rushed through the major events that the prosecution says culminated in extortion, setting up a timeline and a basic resumé of taped video and audio evidence that the prosecution will introduce in coming days.
Lindquist said the evidence shows Greene taking the money, Roldan playing middleman and Saldana —- who was chief of all VIPD detectives and a 22-year veteran of the force —- overseeing the deal.

The Trial Begins … Again
In their opening statements, both sides agreed that the events in question began on Dec. 4, 2008, when Greene and other members of Saldana’s VIPD intelligence unit were conducting a routine nighttime patrol of the Paul M. Pearson housing community.
It was there they searched a parked rental car, left with its radio on and windows down, finding what appeared to be a kilogram of cocaine inside.
The drugs turned out to be fake—rice flour cooked up in a microwave by 51-year-old Richard Motta to be passed off on the streets for real cocaine.
Prosecutors say Saldana and Greene then used the phony drugs to extort money from Motta, who had left them in the car, which had been borrowed from his employer, St. Thomas businesswoman Rosemary Sauter.
Through various machinations facilitated by Roldan, Motta finally agreed to meet Greene to pay him half of the original $10,000 Roldan told him he’d have to come up with to retrieve paperwork left in the car (belonging to Sauter) and to make the threat of them handing the fake drugs over to federal agents “go away,” Lindquist said.

Witness for the Prosecution
The first and only witness to take the stand after jury selection and opening statements Monday was FBI agent Jackson Purkey, who led the federal investigation after Motta and Sauter went to the FBI to report the alleged extortion attempt.
Purkey described many recorded phone conversations over the following day or so and a videotape federal agents acquired by fitting Motta with a camera and body wire when he finally met with Greene and Roldan in Frenchtown for the payoff on Dec. 23, carrying $5,000 of FBI cash.
Sometime around 10 p.m., that night Motta met with Roldan and Greene, who traded Motta the paperwork for the cash and told Motta that “it’s blessed”—that the fake drugs would never come back to bite him, Lindquist said.
Lindquist told the jury Monday that they would see it all for themselves on video before the trial was over.
Purkey said that on the day Greene was finally arrested in August, he said, “You got it all wrong,” and admitted taking the money as part of an undercover operation investigating Motta for a murder-for-hire scheme involving Sauter, who he said was going to pay Motta to kill her husband.

The Defense Fires Back
In their turn, defense attorneys opened fire on the government’s case, mostly arguing with the interpretation of their clients’ intentions rather than the facts.
Roldan’s attorney, George Hodge, said that on Dec. 20 it was Motta who approached Roldan, setting the payoff in motion, saying he needed help getting his stuff back from the police.
Contradicting Lindquist’s characterization of them as strangers, Hodge said the two knew each other from St. Croix, and that Motta’s offer was to “give me the pad (paperwork) in exchange for $10,000,” Hodge said.
When Hodge told the jury it was Sauter who invented the extortion scheme when she met with McCall, Judge Gomez stopped him and told him to stick with the evidence. It was the first of three times Hodge had to be told before his time was through Monday.
Thurston McKelvin, Greene’s attorney, offered no statement Monday.
“The evidence is going to show that Enrique Saldana, just like the other officer, exercised good judgment as a police officer,” said Saldana’s defense attorney, Darren Jean-Baptiste.
Jean-Baptiste insisted that as chief of detectives and head of the VIPD intelligence unit, Saldana had “substantial discretion to do what he needs to do to fight crime.”
He said Saldana authorized and oversaw Greene’s meetings with Motta, as well as the $5,000 payoff, as a way to get in tight with Motta, a prosecution witness he asked the jury to be very wary of.
“His police work led him to believe that there was a murder-for-hire,” Jean-Baptiste said, extolling Saldana’s rise through the ranks over more than two decades with the VIPD.
“Why would he throw away his entire career for $5,000?” he asked the jury rhetorically. “You use your common sense to determine that.”
Greene, 33, was convicted last week on two separate federal weapons charges that stemmed from his Aug. 4 arrest in connection with Motta.
Upon his arrest, federal agents found two unregistered handguns with defaced serial numbers stashed in Greene’s unmarked police vehicle. Claiming he found them abandoned and unmarked in a police storeroom four months before, Greene had never attempted to officially record them as evidence or property, nor had he told Saldana, his supervisor, that he had them.
He claimed to have held the guns and other questionable material found in his vehicle as props for his undercover persona as a “dirty cop,” which he said played well on the streets and netted him and his team information from St Thomas’s underworld.
Defense attorneys for both officers indicated Monday that they would again use the defense that Saldana and Greene were deep undercover, playing dirty cops, when they took $5,000 from Motta.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday with the defense’s cross-examination of Purkey.

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