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Corruption Trial of 8 Detroit Police Officers Begins

DETROIT (AP) - Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys made opening arguments in the corruption trial of eight Detroit police officers.

The officers concocted false reports, planted guns and drugs a dozen times, assaulted citizens and lied under oath and "sold the integrity of Detroit Police badges," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Engstrom told a jury Wednesday.

"This is a case about how the defendants stole the constitutional rights of the defendants," Engstrom said. The officers "out and out lied to prosecutors, judges and jurors while on the witness stand."

Defense lawyers in their opening statements attacked the credibility of the officers' alleged victims, noting that most were drug dealers, drug users, prostitutes or repeat criminals.

Frank Eaman, a lawyer for co-defendant Matthew Zani, told jurors that victims could profit from civil suits over the alleged mistreatment and that three police officers who already have pleaded guilty will likely avoid any jail time by cooperating.

The government has subpoenaed 178 witnesses to testify, including 50 current and former police officers and four judges. At least a dozen officers will testify at the trial, which could last nine weeks, Engstrom said.

Eight other officers face trial this spring on the same charges. All of the indicted officers have been suspended or resigned.

The indictments stemmed from a continuing investigation by the police department's internal affairs unit, the FBI and the Justice Department into complaints from the public and prisoners about incidents from April 2000 to June 2003.

Wayne County judges have thrown out two criminal convictions stemming from the indicted officers' conduct.

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