Judge delays sentencing of former East Washington police chief for hearing on informant payments
A federal judge on Thursday halted the sentencing of a former East Washington police chief convicted of corruption charges because the defense argued that prosecutors failed to turn over information on how much the government paid an informant.
Donald Solomon, 57, pleaded guilty in January to three counts of violating the Hobbs Act, which makes it illegal for public officials to perform official actions for personal gain. The former police chief admitted to providing protection and weapons to people whom he thought were moving cocaine through his Washington County borough.
Marketa Sims, an assistant federal public defender, objected to the prosecution playing 24 audio and video clips at the sentencing hearing because the government didn't say what the man who helped tape many of the conversations was paid in return for his help.
U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti allowed the prosecutor to play the clips but ordered them to turn over the information so that Sims could see it during a scheduled break in the hearing.
After the break, Sims said the FBI paid the informant $31,200 over two years. She requested a hearing on whether the FBI effectively coerced the informant into making the recordings by offering the money.
U.S. Attorney David Hickton said the money represents payments in several cases. Sims said the acknowledgment strengthens her argument because the informant was effectively an FBI employee.
“It emphasizes his desire to please the FBI,” she told the judge.
Conti indicated she is skeptical because the amount comes to about $15,000 annually.
“It's not enough money to live a lavish lifestyle,” the judge said.
Nevertheless, Conti ordered a hearing on the issue for June 14 and adjourned the sentencing hearing.
Solomon, who remains free on bond, Sims and Hickton declined comment after the hearing.
FBI Special Agent Travis Cooke testified that the investigation started with the informant telling Solomon that the informant had been hired to protect a drug transaction.
Solomon asked the informant to see if he also could get paid to provide protection and subsequently agreed to protect the transfer of 4 kilograms of cocaine for $500 per kilo. The “drug dealers” were undercover federal agents. Solomon voluntarily escorted one of them as he drove his vehicle back to an interstate highway, Cooke said.
Solomon provided protection for a second transaction, in which he thought they were moving 10 kilograms of cocaine and that he was paid $700 for each kilo. The former chief also used his position to buy police-only Tasers for the undercover agents and agreed to see whether he could find silencers, explosives and untraceable guns for them, Cooke said.
Federal guidelines recommend a sentence of 11 years and 3 months to 14 years based on Solomon's abuse of his position and the type of crime he was willing to aid.
Sims is arguing that the government unfairly inflated the possible sentence by increasing the amount of fictitious drugs in the second transaction and generally preyed on Solomon's financial problems to induce him into committing the crimes.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Plum students protest orders to keep mum about sex cases
- Coach Johnston trying to figure out why Penguins ‘fell off a cliff’
- Pirates notebook: Wainwright injury doesn’t sway Hurdle on DH
- Injured Penguins optimistic about returning next season
- Police arrest 2 after shots fired in North Side
- Crosby, Malkin want to remain in Pittsburgh
- Washington’s Shelton grows into big role, looks forward to draft
- Behind starter Liriano, Pirates complete sweep of Diamondbacks
- McKees Rocks council president arrested after SWAT standoff
- LaBar: Extreme Rules was entertaining and smart
- Oak Ridge couple transforms 1820 house into quaint bed and breakfast