A federal appeals court has upheld an 18-month prison sentence handed down to a former St. Louis police officer who admitted to stealing government property.
Ronald Jackson and another officer, Christian Brezill, pleaded guilty in April 2010 to taking electronics from the trunk of a woman they had pulled over in north St. Louis, keeping some pieces and selling others for cash. Unbeknownst to the two officers, the unidentified woman was cooperating with federal investigators, who suspected that Jackson has done something similar in the past.
Brezill got probation; Jackson went to prison after Judge Donald J. Stohr ruled that Jackson was the ringleader and had carried a dangerous weapon - his duty firearm - during the crime.
Jackson challenged the prison time, arguing that the weapon had nothing to do with the crime. The three-judge appeals panel disagreed, saying,
"Indeed, it was Jackson’s police uniform, which included the firearm, that cloaked him with the apparent authority to arrest Doe, search her vehicle, and confiscate the electronics. Had he not been in uniform, it is not improbable that Doe would have regarded him as just another civilian. In those circumstances, we think it unlikely that she would have complied so readily, if at all,with his directives."
Jackson had also argued that he could not be considered with the ringleader of the crime, an argument also rejected by the appeals court:
"At sentencing, the district court heard testimony that it was Jackson who initially planned the offense, that it was Jackson who recruited an accomplice in Brezill,that Jackson was, by some three decades, the senior officer, that when the two officers found Doe it was Jackson who “made the decision to take the property,” that it was Jackson’s decision to split up the property at Brezill’s parents’ house, and that it was Jackson who shared some of the stolen electronics with the informant."
Jackson is currently serving his sentence at the Talladega Federal Correctional Institution in Talladega, Ala.