The former head of the New Haven Police Department’s narcotics-enforcement unit, William “Billy” White, was sentenced Monday to 38 months in prison for taking bribes and embezzling money from crime scenes.
With White set to start serving that sentence in June — 15 months after the FBI revealed its New Haven sting operation, which investigated corruption in the NHPD and particularly its narcotics unit — the department’s most prominent “bad boy” will finally be behind bars.
“When a police officer such as Mr. White turns into a criminal such as those he devoted his life to enforcing the law against, kids lose their heroes,” U.S. District Judge Janet Arterton said, according to the New Haven Independent. “The public loses its trust in the police. The police department loses its reputation. And judges and jurors get increasingly skeptical of the sworn statements that are given to them.”
Friends, neighbors and White’s wife appeared in court in New Haven on Monday, testifying about White’s character, but Arterton followed through on Acting U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy’s recommendation in a pre-sentencing memo from last week that suggested that White be given the maximum 37 to 46 months in jail. The sentence will also include two years of supervised release and a $20,000 fine.
In court on Monday, Arterton, like Dannehy in her memo, dismissed the defense’s claims that White was a good-natured cop who was committed to a life of service but was plagued by post-traumatic stress disorder that impaired his judgment.
An undercover agent working with the FBI told White, while he was posing as a member of the narcotics unit last year, that he needed money to help his daughters. The doctor who examined White said White gave the agent money to “expiate the guilt” he felt from losing his own son, who was murdered by a gang, according to Dannehy’s memo.
But both Dannehy and Arterton ruled that there was not enough evidence to support claims that PTSD could blamed for White’s actions, and that his actions were deliberate.
White pleaded guilty in October 2007 to one count of bribery and two counts of theft of government funds.
Between July 2006 and March 2007, local bail bondsmen bribed White and another NHPD officer, who was cooperating with the federal authorities, with approximately $24,400 to find his debtors.
“I bet you I made $60,000 off [Robert Jacobs, a New Haven bail bondsman],” White said before his arrest during a recorded conversation with the undercover agent. “You know … In four or five years … easy. Easy.”
White also admitted at the same time to stealing roughly $30,000 in planted money from three different crime scenes during the FBI’s covert operation, including $27,500 from the trunk of a car in January of last year.
After White and former narcotics detective Justen Kasperzyk were arrested in March 2007, the city hired an independent consultant group to assess the NHPD’s shortcomings and propose solutions for reform. The group, the Washington D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum, released its final report last November, although the department is waiting for a new chief to take over before enacting any major changes.
Facing 18 to 24 months in prison and a $40,000 fine, Kasperzyk pleaded guilty in October to one felony count of civil-rights violation and one misdemeanor charge for theft of government funds. He is still awaiting sentencing.
Former detective Jose Silva, who was not arrested in the initial sting but admitted later to witnessing Kasperzyk plant drugs at one crime scene and to taking $500 from a second crime scene, was given three months in jail in January.
In addition to his $20,000 fine, White will also have to forfeit his half of the $24,400 he took from Jacobs and pay a restitution fee of $15,505.