Fired Dallas narcotics Detective Mark Delapaz walked out of a federal courtroom Tuesday vowing to regain his police badge after jurors in his federal civil-rights trial found him not guilty of lying about bogus drug arrests that sent innocent people to jail, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Jurors deliberated for more than five hours before reaching a unanimous not-guilty verdict on six federal charges that could have sent him to prison for 10 years.
The jury’s verdict is a mile marker in a nearly two-year federal investigation that leaves several major questions unanswered, ranging from the quality of oversight within the Dallas police narcotics division to the practice of employing illegal immigrants to aid in the war on drugs.
City Attorney Madeleine Johnson said Tuesday night that she would offer Mr. Delapaz his job back Wednesday. But she emphasized that he faces further scrutiny.
The FBI had asked the city not to conduct an administrative investigation of Mr. Delapaz until its criminal investigation was complete.
“The next step will be an internal or administrative investigation. … Obviously, there are questions that still need to be answered, and it’s vital that we get to the bottom of this whole issue,” she said.
FBI officials said they’re continuing their fake-drugs investigation. Mr. Delapaz’s former partner, Eddie Herrera, remains on paid leave pending the investigation.
At least three federal lawsuits brought by those wrongfully arrested are proceeding against the city and other individuals involved.
Mr. Delapaz faced misdemeanor charges of lying in police reports about witnessing drug transactions arranged by his confidential informants. His false statements generated enough probable cause to lead judges to approve arrest warrants against the innocent people, prosecutors charged. In each of the four arrests, the seized substances turned out to be almost entirely billiards chalk. Mr. Delapaz, 36, was also charged with one felony count of lying to a prosecutor and an FBI agent about the cases.
Four informants have admitted to fabricating fake drugs and arranging for innocent people to be arrested. Their motivation: the Police Department’s practice of paying informants $1,000 cash for every kilogram of seized narcotics.
Police Department records show that the now-discredited informants were paid more than $275,000 in 2001. But at least one informant has said through his attorney that he did not receive many of the payments and that his signature was forged.