By Joe DePriest
The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Two former Cherryville police officers were sentenced in federal court in Charlotte on Thursday to prison for their roles in a scheme to provide protection to trucks carrying stolen cash and goods.
Both had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport or receive stolen property and conspiracy to extort.
U.S. District Judge Robert Conrad sentenced Casey Justine Crawford, 32, to two years and nine months and David Paul Mauney III, 23, to 1 1/2 years.
A third Gaston County man charged in the case, John Hendricks, 48, was sentenced to two years probation. He was not a law enforcement officer.
Family and friends were on hand in court to speak on behalf of the former officers. Both defendants said they were sorry for what they did.
"I made a terrible, terrible mistake," Crawford told the judge. "I apologize to the police department and to my friends and family. This is the hardest thing I've ever done."
The Gaston County town of Cherryville became the focus of national attention in October 2012 when FBI agents began the roundup of those involved in the conspiracy. Three Cherryville officers and a Gaston County sheriff's deputy were among six men accused of conspiring to provide protection to trucks carrying stolen goods and cash.
All have pleaded guilty. The other three men have not been sentenced yet.
In January, the former Cherryville finance director and former city customer service representative/utility supervisor were charged with embezzling. Both pleaded guilty.
And in June, former Cherryville Police Chief Woody Burgess pleaded guilty to embezzlement.
In court on Thursday, new Cherryville Police Chief Chad Hawkins addressed the judge on behalf of the city, saying Cherryville was "forever changed" by the events of October 2012.
The officers' actions "diminished public trust in police and the city as a whole," Hawkins said, and were "a gross betrayal of the activities of the police department."
Crawford's lawyer, S. Frederick Winiker III, told the judge that "my client is a young man who essentially committed his life to being a career police officer on the Cherryville force."
While Crawford "loved his job," Winiker said, his client had a "lapse of judgment." When Crawford got involved in the scheme, the defense attorney said, it wasn't "immediately apparent it was a nefarious type of action."
Crawford is remorseful and has significantly cooperated with investigators, Winiker said.
A former training sergeant at the Cherryville Police Department called Crawford "a good man who made a mistake. I'm very sorry for the profession he let down. I'm sorry he let his family down."
Federal prosecutor Mike Savage told the judge that despite Crawford's good character "he did take the temptation." Calling the action "reprehensible and inexcusable," Savage said it caused "tremendous damage to the community."
Mauney, who has been out on bond and is taking courses at a community college, appeared in court wearing a dark suit.
Choking back tears, he said: "I wish I could go back and change things. I wish I could go back and do something different. I have to live with this the rest of my life. I never thought I'd be in this kind of situation."
Lou Mauney said her son "always had a passion for law enforcement" and that after his arrest "his world fell apart."
"He was grieving at what he'd lost," Lou Mauney said. "He was shackled with fear, shame and regret. It was a lonely time and depression set in. But thank God, he's an overcomer and he plans to rebuild his life and reputation and have a new career. He's learned his lesson and he's on the right path."
Conrad said Casey Mauney "should have known better and I believe did know better."
Calling Mauney's actions a "violation of the oath to uphold the law," the judge said it "creates a disrespect for the law and sentencing must address that."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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