D.C. police Officer Andrew James McGill Jr., who is accused of having been part of a drug gang that operated in the District for a decade, provided "critical law enforcement information" to the alleged ringleader of the organization and other conspirators, a federal prosecutor said yesterday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
When fellow D.C. police officers began to suspect that McGill was involved in illicit activity in 1997, he threatened two fellow officers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Wilkinson said at a detention hearing. McGill told one officer he could have him "offed," Wilkinson said. To another, he allegedly said, "Are you still around? I thought you'd be gone by now."
Wilkinson provided the first details of the government's case against McGill, portraying him as a threat to the community. She argued that McGill should remain incarcerated until he and the eight others charged in the indictment go to trial, now scheduled for March 14.
But U.S. Magistrate Judge Jillyn K. Schulze ruled that the government had failed to show that McGill was a danger and instead ordered him released under the supervision of the federal pretrial services department. Schulze also ordered McGill to stay in his wife's home until trial, except for meetings with his attorney and medical appointments.
McGill, 29, was arrested Thursday afternoon as he arrived for work at the 5th Police District in Northeast Washington and is now on administrative leave. He will be subject to 24-hour-a-day electronic monitoring at his home and must undergo a drug evaluation and, if necessary, drug treatment, the judge ruled.
His attorney, Robert W. Mance, argued that McGill should be released, noting that the officer is not charged with selling drugs and that nothing came of the alleged threats. But Wilkinson countered that McGill is "no different from the other people charged in the case, and in some ways much worse, because he abused his public trust" as a police officer.
Schulze, in explaining her decision to release McGill, said the charges against him are "very serious" but also noted that the evidence prosecutors have presented is circumstantial.
A federal grand jury in Greenbelt recently indicted McGill, alleging that he is part of a drug network that trafficked in heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana from 1989 to last year. Much of the alleged dealing occurred in the unit block of Forrester Street in Southwest Washington, a notorious and violent marijuana and crack market in the mid-1990s. Because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, which is ongoing, many of the documents in the case are sealed under a federal court order.
At yesterday's hearing, Wilkinson provided some details of the case prosecutors are building against McGill, who joined the police department in 1990. Information has come from interviews prosecutors have conducted with McGill and from grand jury testimony provided by witnesses, among them several D.C. police officers, Wilkinson said.
In early 1990, Wilkinson said, McGill met and became close friends with the alleged ringleader of the drug gang, Erskine "Pee Wee" Hartwell, who is now 32. By the mid-1990s, McGill was assigned to the 7th Police District, which includes Forrester Street, the block then controlled by the alleged drug gang. At one point, McGill was even assigned to work undercover on Forrester Street. When Hartwell looked out the window of the home he used as a base to sell drugs, he laughed at McGill policing his street, Wilkinson said.
In 1996 or perhaps earlier, McGill "stepped over the line" and began giving Hartwell and his drug network information about police activity, Wilkinson said, without providing specifics. McGill eventually owned a cellular telephone used by the drug gang, one that could not be monitored electronically, the prosecutor said.
In 1996, Hartwell was convicted of reckless endangerment in connection with the wounding a year earlier of Ronnell Wright. According to Prince George's Circuit Court records, Wright told police that he believed Hartwell shot him because Hartwell thought Wright had provided information to police about a stolen-auto ring and drug gang both were then involved with.
In January 1997, Prince George's Circuit Court Judge William B. Spellbring Jr. sentenced Hartwell to one year in the county correctional facility. McGill visited Hartwell while he was locked up, Wilkinson said.
In 1991, Hartwell pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court to one count of carrying a deadly weapon and one count of simple assault, according to court records.