City Cops, Bail Bondsmen Arraigned;
Billy White Considered Suicidal
by Paul Bass and Christine Stuart
New Haven Independent
The government has requested a psychiatric evaluation of arrested New Haven police Lt. Billy White following his arraignment Tuesday afternoon on charges of accepting bribes from local bail bondsmen. The government said the FBI caught White in a sting operation. According to New Haven Chief Francisco Ortiz, it was a joint operation.
White, 63, head of the city police department's narcotics enforcement unit, was arraigned before federal Judge Magistrate Robert Smith late Tuesday on charges of criminal conspiracy and theft of government funds over $1,000. He faces up to 15 years in jail and up to $250,000 in fines on the combined charges.
Also arraigned was city police detective Justen Kasperzyk, 34. He was charged with theft of government funds under $1,000, a misdemeanor. He was released on a $100,000 surety bond, which means he didn't have to put up any money.
Three bail bondsmen from a family-run Orange Street firm -- Paul, Robert and Phil Jacobs -- were also arrested on conspiracy charges in connection with the case. They were released on $750,000 bond; they put their houses up as collateral.
The government said it will hold White in an undisclosed location because of a security risk.
The pony-tailed White showed up in court wearing a grey long-sleeved T-shirt and jeans. He visibly flinched as his handcuffs were removed and he appeared before the judge.
Police Chief Francisco Ortiz was in court seated besides agents from the FBI. He spoke briefly to reporters outside court along with FBI Agent Kimberly Mertz.
Ortiz said this investigation proves the department "won't accept anything less than absolute integrity." The investigation of White was the result of an eight-month covert investigation. Mertz said the FBI was tipped off to the allegations of theft and bribery by someone in the department.
Prosecutor David Ring told the judge he considers White a suicide risk and a flight risk. He asked that White be put on a suicide watch and undergo a psychiatric evaluation as soon as possible.
"Mr. White was caught on tape saying that he was too old to be arrested. What he means is that he's too old to go to jail, and he's got a lot of money at this point" from all the money he's taken from the government, prosecutor Ring told the judge. "He's got a lot of money in cash. That's a risk of flight."
White said little. His attorney, Richard Cramer, said little, too; he said he hadn't had time yet to confer with his client.
According to a 57-page affidavit released by the government, the Jacobs family would pay White tens of thousands of dollars in cash to hunt down people they were looking for. The FBI conducted a sting operation, with an undercover agent assigned as a partner working with White.
"At a time when New Haven was on fire with murders," White was collecting bribes for work that "should have been part of his official" job, Ring charged.
White separately took other cash that should have been preserved as evidence, according to the government.
The government displayed an enlarged photograph in court of White wearing a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses, allegedly receiving $27,500 in cash in a brown bag as part of the sting.
At one point the bag ripped and bills "fell all over the pavement," Ring said.
The FBI raided the state courthouse on Elm Street across from the New Haven Green and the police department earlier Tuesday. Agents searched other sites, including Billy White's Westville home.
Mayor DeStefano, en route home to New Haven from D.C., issued a statement at 4:15 p.m. expressing "concern."
According to one cop on the scene at the time, at least five male FBI agents, dressed in civilian clothes, appeared around the middle of the day on the police station's third floor, where the narcotics unit is based. The talk around the station since then is that more warrants are pending, with a focus on that narcotics unit.
"People are nervous," the cop said. "It's ugly. We already are facing a detective shortage."
Mayor John DeStefano plans a press conference this evening after he returns to New Haven from a D.C. meeting of the National League of Cities. His press office issued the following statement:
"Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. said that he is concerned to learn today about the arrests of two New Haven police officers on federal charges.
"'We are attempting to learn more about the charges, and will be fully cooperating with the investigation,'" said DeStefano. "'I will be holding a press briefing with Chief Ortiz when I arrive back in New Haven.'"
"Mayor DeStefano is en route back from Washington, DC, and has been in contact with the Chief of Police, Francisco Ortiz. Chief Ortiz has placed both officers on administrative leave and has launched an Internal Values and Ethics investigation to be headed by Lt. Patrick Redding.
"Mayor DeStefano is not expected back in New Haven until after 8 p.m."
A Top Cop
Billy White has been one of the department's most experienced and knowledgeable intelligence officers for more than a decade. He played an integral role in successful cases against leaders of drug gangs in the 1990s -- cases that involved intense cooperation between the local cops and the FBI, the same agency which arrested him Tuesday.
During one of those investigations, White was hit with tragedy. Members of the Latin Kings shot dead his teen-aged son.
Jane Mills contributed to this story.