April 4, 2012
A federal appeals court on Tuesday affirmed the convictions of a former Norfolk police detective who was sentenced to 12½ years in prison for taking tens of thousands of dollars from drug dealers in exchange for getting them favorable treatment at sentencing.
Robert Glenn Ford was convicted last year on two counts of extortion and one count of lying to the FBI.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected Ford's claim that the trial judge erred in allowing the jury to hear evidence about his intent to commit the offenses. Ford's own testimony "placed his intent at issue by providing an innocent explanation for his assistance and interaction with the criminal defendants whom he is accused of extorting," the court said.
"Thus, we conclude that the challenged testimony was both relevant and necessary to establish Ford's knowing and voluntary participation in the charged conspiracy," the panel said in its ruling, which was decided based on briefs, without hearing oral argument.
Ford's attorney, William Mallory Kent, did not immediately return a voicemail message. The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on the decision.
According to prosecutors, Ford wrongfully told judges that drug dealers had provided assistance to him in murder investigations, helping them secure an early release in exchange for money. The government's star witness, Marcus Adams, and nine other people said they paid Ford or split reward money with him in exchange for his help in court cases. Ford allegedly used Adams as an intermediary to collect about $70,000.
Ford, who retired in 2007, denied any wrongdoing.
Ford, 58, is best known for his role in an unrelated case — the murder and rape convictions of four ex-sailors known as the "Norfolk Four." The men claimed Ford coerced them into falsely confessing to a crime that another man committed alone.
In 2009, then-Gov. Tim Kaine granted three of the men conditional pardons, freeing them from prison but allowing their convictions to stand. The fourth man had already been released from prison. Only one of the men has since been exonerated by the courts, but efforts continue on behalf of the others.