Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip M. Stinson is recognized as probably the nation’s best authority on police misconduct. Over a ten-year period, beginning in 2005, Stinson compiled a database of 11,000 cases of misconduct involving nearly 9,000 officers.
Police misconduct is systemic in our criminal justice system. Police brutality, planting evidence, manufacturing evidence, perjury on the witness stand, routine siphoning of seized drug money, providing protection for drug dealers, abuse of authority, eliciting sexual favors during traffic stops, excessive force, unauthorized use of lethal force, and a host of other corrupt activities are prevalent, in one form or another, in most police departments across the country. This is especially so with the Little Rock, Arkansas Police Department (LRPD).
Little Rock Arkansas’ Dirty Rob is a Dirty Cop
Take, for example, the case of Randall Tremayn Robinson, who was known as “Dirty Rob” during his tenure with the LRPD. We will use his moniker in this piece because he worked so hard to get it.
Dirty Rob is the classic definition of a “dirty cop.” He not only provided protection for drug traffickers in Little Rock, but sold narcotics on the streets when the opportunity presented itself.
It was these corrupt activities that eventually led to Dirty Rob being indicted in multi-count indictment in federal court. Specifically, he was charged distributing one-half pound of marijuana to a confidential informant, conspiring and attempting to aid and abet possession of marijuana, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and misprision of a felony.
Jury Deadlocked on Most Serious Charges
In 2013, Dirty Rob faced a jury trial. That proved fortuitous. A jury could only find the ex-cop guilty on just the one count of distributing the marijuana to the CI while deadlocking on the remaining counts. The government immediately dismissed the firearms count and the district court declared a mistrial on the remaining counts.
In February 2014, the government filed a third superseding indictment against Dirty Rob. The new indictment contained not only the charges on which the district court had declared a mistrial but two additional charges; namely, use of a telephone to commit and facilitate a drug crime and making material false statements to agents of the United States.
Convicted on Making False Statements
A second jury convicted him on making the false statements but acquitted him on the remaining counts.
Thus, Dirty Rob faced two felony convictions: the distribution count provided a penalty up to five years and a fine up to $250,000 while the making of a false statement provided a penalty up to five years.
The district court apparently didn’t feel that police misconduct is a serious offense.
District Court Sentences Dirty Cop to One Month Imprisonment
The court imposed concurrent one-month terms of imprisonment for each conviction.
Dirty Rob appealed his convictions and “slap-on-the-wrist” sentences to the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals.
In August 2013, while the appeal was pending, Dirty Rob learned that a fellow officer of the LRPD, Detective Charles Weaver,had gotten himself into a pickle of misconduct as well.
This information was significant to Dirty Rob because Weaver was the detective who met with a CI in August 2009 to arrange for a controlled buy of marijuana from Dirty Rob.
Interestingly enough, Weaver had been detailed to work with the FBI in its investigation of the dirty cop. He had testified against Dirty Rob at his July 2013 trial. He said he gave the CI $600 of LRPD money to make the buy from Dirty Rob. It was that testimony that formed the basis for Dirty Rob’s marijuana-distribution conviction.
Dirty Cops Weave Tangled Web
The information Dirty Rob learned about Weaver was that the LRPD was investigating the detective for improper evidence handling. It seems Weaver also had some serious dirty cop tendencies.
Weaver’s misconduct centered on his actions in early 2013 when he forged property room documents showing he had returned roughly $9,000 in cash to two owners when, in fact, “he had presumably kept the cash for himself,” according to a January 5, 2016 decision by the Eighth Circuit in Dirty Rob’s case.
When confronted with the allegations, Weaver lied to investigators, saying he had in fact returned the money to its proper owners. He later recanted that lie. He was fired from the LRPD in September 2013.
Dirty Rob Argues Brady Violation on Appeal
Dirty Rob seized on Weaver’s misconduct to argue on appeal that the government had a duty to disclose this misconduct to his defense in the marijuana-distribution case.
That argument was a stretch since Weaver’s misconduct occurred after Dirty Rob’s conviction on that charge.
In the alternative, he argued that the Weaver misconduct should have been disclosed before his retrial because, as he told the appeals court, the misconduct was “material impeachment evidence that reasonably could have affected the outcome of his trial.” He reasoned that because the government introduced the marijuana-distribution at his second trial, the Weaver misconduct would have undermined the “government’s otherwise weak case.”
Did Defendant Receive a Fair Trial?
The Supreme Court has ruled in Brady violation cases that “the question is not whether the defendant would more likely than not have received a different verdict with the [non-disclosed] evidence, but whether in its absence he received a fair trial.”
Thus, the only issue the Eighth Circuit had to decide was whether Dirty Rob received a fair trial on the two charges for which he was convicted. The appeals court adopted the district court’s conclusion that because Weaver himself was the only person who knew about the $9,000 misconduct and because that misconduct had nothing to do with the case against Dirty Rob, the misconduct could not be attributed to the government. The Eighth Circuit agreed:
“ … Here, Weaver was not the only officer to testify about the controlled drug buy that resulted in Robinson’s marijuana-distribution conviction. As noted by the district court, Detective Kiser, who was assigned to conduct visual surveillance of the controlled buy, testified that he observed Robinson and the CI arrive at the location for the buy, that he identified Robinson when Robinson exited his vehicle at that location, that Robinson and the CI ‘made an exchange,’ and that he saw Robinson hand the CI a plastic-wrapped package that was later confirmed to contain marijuana. Even if the evidence regarding Weaver’s misconduct had been disclosed to Robinson and had been used to impeach Weaver’s testimony, there is no reasonable probability that Robinson would have been acquitted of the marijuana-distribution charge, given Kiser’s eyewitness testimony. We are satisfied that Robinson received a fair trial that resulted in a verdict worthy of confidence …”
At the end of the day in this sordid affair, one dirty cop got fired for stealing $9,000 from the LRPD evidence room while a second dirty cop was rewarded with an especially lenient one-month sentence for dealing in drugs and lying about it.
Federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), requires federal district court to impose a sentence that is sufficient but not greater than necessary to accomplish the goals of sentencing; namely, to reflect the seriousness of the offense; promote respect for the law; deter crime; protect the public; and rehabilitate the offender.
The U.S. Supreme Court has stated that the reasonableness of a federal criminal sentence must be reviewed for abuse of discretion, regardless of whether the sentence is inside or outside of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. A federal appeals court must pay due deference to a district court’s sentencing decision when the sentencing judge properly considers the § 3553(a) factors.
It does not seem that the district court properly considered the § 3553(a) factors in Dirty Rob’s case.
Cops Given Special Treatment
For example, on November 3, 2015, a federal district court sentenced a Santa Fe, N.M. man to 41 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for participating in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana and oxycodone. One month later two Austin, Texas brothers were sentenced to 10 years in prison for their roles in a synthetic cannabinoid operation, also followed by three years of supervised release.
A dirty cop—one involved in widespread drug trafficking—received a one month sentence for crimes that did incredible damage to the integrity of our justice system while a “common criminal” gets ten years.
That doesn’t seem quite fair to us. It seems more like a reward.