Ex-Miami Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Extorting an Illegal Sports Betting Ring
A former Miami police officer pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to charges that he extorted money from an illegal sports betting operation. Jerry Sutherland, 28, did not fight charges that he extorted $3,400 in cash from a South Florida gambling operator in exchange for police protection.
Jerry Sutherland worked as a patrol officer from the North District police state at the time of his crimes. The U.S. attorney’s office say he met 10 times with the illegal bookie in the case.
Convicted of Two Counts of Extortion
Sutherland pleaded guilty to 2 counts of extortion. Each conviction brings with it a possible 20 years in prison. The actual sentence is expected to be far shorter, though, because the ex-cop plead guilty to the charges and had already resigned from the police force in February 2015. He appears in the courtroom of US District Judge Cecilia Altonaga in May 2015 for sentencing.
Officer Sutherland joined the Miami police force out of high schools, so he had been on the force for several years. His career path took a darker turn when he asked a Liberty City business owner to paint football helmets for free. According to court documents, the helmets belonged to an adult football team Sutherland managed.
Shook Down the Wrong Person
Later, Sutherland asked the business owner in Liberty City for other favors. According to Sutherland’s own statement signed in the plea deal, he mistakenly believed that the businessman ran an illegal Liberty City sports betting operation. In time, he told the owner he could supply him with information about police surveillance to the actual owner of the gambling operation in exchange for a price, according to the statement he signed.
Eventually, an FBI anti-corruption task force worked with Miami police detectives to make audio and video recordings of Jerry Sutherland extorting money. Sutherland eventually met with the real gambling operator and shook him down for money. The illegal bookmaker placed bets with a legal Las Vegas betting establishment.
FBI Taped Sutherland Committing Crimes
In the videotaped evidence, Off. Sutherland promised the bookie to “arrange for the dismissal of a criminal court case against an employee of the illegal gambling operation.”
Those same tapes reveal the officer offering to direct surveillance towards a rival illegal gaming operator, in order to drive customers towards Sutherland’s chosen bookmaker.
A Pillar of the Community
While he was involved in the documented corruption, Jerry Sutherland dabbled in politics, preached on Sunday, and did charity work. In 2010, Sutherland ran for City Commissioner of District 5.
Sutherland was seen as a pillar of the community. He was the pastor at the Sunrise Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City. In his spare time, he worked for a local nonprofit in the same community in which he was raised. Many in the community are likely to have trouble reconciling one action with another.
Unless one knows a person, it is fruitless speculating whether a person who does bad on the one hand is insincere when he does good on the other hand. In such cases, even casually knowing a person in a community setting is often a poor sampling to judge a person. It is possible Jerry Sutherland felt he was shaking down criminals or people who took advantage of problem gamblers, so he did not feel moral qualms taking their money.
People sometimes have skewed morals, even when they are basically decent people. It is also possible the man had not handled his finances well and his misconduct is the result of desperation in a man who did not want to admit to the community he had problems. Finally, it is possible he was simply a hypocrite pretending to be a good citizen in order to keep up appearances. Mr. Sutherland’s fellow police officers certainly viewed him as a man who needed to face justice, which is why they were part of the FBI task force.
While most police officers are solid citizens upholding a dangerous responsibility, police corruption often coincides with illegal activity in the community. In several cases over the past year alone, law enforcement officials have become involved in bribery and corruption.
In South Carolina in 2014, a county sheriff was convicted of taking bribes from illegal bookmakers. In Indiana last year, a city official embezzled money to cover gambling debts. Anywhere illegal activity takes place, it opens the criminal up to a police shakedown. Thankfully, most officers do not take the temptation. Unfortunately, Jerry Sutherland was one of the ones who did.
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