11/11/2004

Former Chicago Officer Convicted in Cocaine Trial

The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) - A former Chicago police officer was convicted Wednesday of helping himself to cocaine in the evidence room and selling it at a South Side crack house.

John L. Smith, 55, of Chicago faces a minimum of 10 years in federal prison and a maximum of life when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo.

Before sentence is imposed, Smith faces a hearing at which federal prosecutors will seek to force him to forfeit a Rolls Royce, furs and jewelry as well as a house and an apartment building they say he acquired through the sale of narcotics.

Smith's attorneys claimed he struck it rich playing the slot machines at gambling casinos - not selling drugs.

But jurors deliberated just four hours before convicting him of a drug selling conspiracy, money laundering and six tax counts.

Smith joined the police department in 1976 and remained on the force until 1999.

Chicago Police Superintendent Philip Cline said the department was pleased with the guilty verdict.

"The conviction of John Smith demonstrates our resolve to aggressively pursue criminal charges against officers who break the law," Cline said in a written statement.

A woman who admitted she smoked, snorted and sometimes sold cocaine out of the crack house, Tesha Robinson, testified Monday that she often saw "Smitty" deliver cocaine that he carried in a gym bag to her now deceased boyfriend, William "Fats" James.

A statistics and gambling expert, Marvin Halldorson, testified Tuesday that Smith's claim to have financed his lavish lifestyle by playing the slots was "beyond any realm of reasonableness."

While Smith's tax returns show he won a net $280,000 gambling from 1996 through 2000, casino records show that he actually lost $170,000 during the period, authorities say.

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