[UPDATE] Former FAMU Police Officer Sentenced in Drug Conspiracy

UPDATED 4.18.2011 by Julie Montanaro

A former FAMU police officer was sentenced today to three years probation for his role in a drug conspiracy.

Federal prosecutors say Byron Whitaker was one of more than a dozen people involved in the marijuana ring.

Federal prosecutors say he voluntarily surrendered his law enfocement credentials to FDLE as part of his plea agreement.

When Whitaker was arrested, he was a full time patrol officer at the FAMU Police Department and prosecutors say he actually negotiated a drug deal while in his patrol car.

Whitaker's attorney said he is now pursuing a new career.

"We are happy that the court saw this was outside his normal conduct and we're happy the court ordered probation and feel it was justified in this case," defense attorney Tim Jansen said.

Tallahassee, FL - Byron Whitaker, 32, a former patrol officer with the Florida A&M University police department, entered a plea of guilty today to federal charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and making false statements to a federal agent, announced United States Attorney Pamela C. Marsh, Northern District of Florida.

During the course of the plea today, Whitaker acknowledged that, between January and May 2010, he purchased marijuana from a local drug supplier for distribution in Tallahassee. Whitaker was employed as a uniformed officer with the FAMU police department at the time, and actually negotiated a purchase while on duty in his patrol car. In an interview with Whitaker in August 2010, DEA agents identified Whitaker’s supplier by name and asked whether the supplier was involved in drug trafficking, Whitaker falsely stated he had not personally seen the supplier with drugs and had not received or purchased drugs from the supplier on any occasion.

Whitaker faces separate sentences of up to five years’ imprisonment for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, and a maximum of five years’ imprisonment for making false statements to a federal agent.

“This case presents the disturbing scenario in which an officer sworn to uphold the law is actually found to be intentionally violating the law. When public officers violate the trust of our community, we will take every step to fairly and uniformly bring them to justice.” U.S. Attorney Marsh praised the work of the DEA, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Florida Department of Transportation, whose joint investigation led to the indictment in the case.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric K. Mountin.

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