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Government Asks Judge to Detain Indicted Officers

The three V.I. law enforcement officers indicted and arrested Thursday on charges ranging from racketeering to extortion were advised of their rights Friday in District Court, where government attorneys recommended they be held in jail pending trial instead of receiving bail.

V.I. Police officers Enid Edwards and Francis Brooks, along with V.I. Port Authority officer Bill John-Baptiste will now have to appear at 10 a.m. next Wednesday for their detention hearing, but until then have been remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Friday’s hearing, presided over by U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Ruth Miller, took all of 10 minutes once the three were called up on the docket. Edwards, a 23-year veteran of the force, went first, followed by Brooks and John-Baptiste, who were dressed in red prison jumpsuits.

Brooks is a 22-year veteran of the department, according to a police statement.

All three were cuffed at the hands and feet and appeared before a packed courtroom of spectators, alongside four other individuals advised Friday on a host of narcotics charges.

The 33-count indictment handed down Thursday by a federal grand jury against Edwards, Brooks and John-Baptiste is a mix of federal and local charges and also includes incidences of kidnapping, along with illegal drug distribution, and states that Edwards and Brooks allegedly "abused their positions of trust" as VIPD officers by engaging in "illegal activities for the purpose of enriching themselves," according to a recent release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The indictment stems from a continued federal probe into public corruption in the territory, carried out by a task force comprised of FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents, along with VIPD investigators, among others.

If convicted on the federal charges, Edwards and Brooks could be looking at a maximum 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. On the local side, the two are facing sentences of a year to life in prison, the release said.

The indictment also alleges that in 2008, John-Baptiste, working in his capacity as a VIPA enforcement officer, "physically assaulted and detained a person against that person’s will as Edwards and Brooks received cash in exchange for that person’s release from custody," the release said. John-Baptiste has been charged with aggravated assault and battery, along with unlawful sexual contact, in relation to the incident.

Police Commissioner Novelle Francis said Friday that Edwards and Brooks have been put on administrative leave without pay, standard procedure for any officer who has been arrested. Meanwhile it is possible, he added, that additional officers could also be charged in connection with the case.

Edwards and Brooks are the most recent in a slew of police arrests, which Francis said continues to deplete the department’s already strained manpower. Along with the arrest of former Police Sgt. Jerome Blyden, a few months ago former Police Capt. Enrique Saldana and Sgt. George Greene — also seasoned police veterans — were convicted on corruption charges, including extortion, conspiracy, conflict of interest and soliciting a bribe.

Francis, added, however, that the actions of a few "rogue officers" should not be applied to the entire department.

A VIPD Internal Affairs investigation is also being conducted, and agents were present in the courtroom Friday, District Police Chief Rodney Querrard Sr. said after the hearing.

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