Ex-police chief’s attorney argues for leniency

April 24, 2013

A day after U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton called the former East Washington police chief’s conduct “outrageous,” Donald Solomon’s attorney asked for leniency in his upcoming sentencing, differentiating between an actual crime and a government sting.

Solomon, 56, is facing jail time, and Hickton, a presidential appointee, represented the government as Solomon pleaded guilty in January. The federal prosecutor said he also plans to be in the courtroom for Solomon’s sentencing May 8.

Solomon’s attorney, in a court filing Wednesday, advocated for 30 to 37 months of imprisonment for her client, while the government and the probation office want a tripling of that term to nine years “all based upon the fictional sting hatched by the government,” wrote Marketa Sims, assistant U.S. public defender.

According to the federal indictment, Solomon met with undercover agents while in uniform and on duty, agreeing to provide distractions for staged multi-kilogram cocaine sales that took place in East Washington and in the park-and-ride lot in South Strabane Township, near Interstate 70. Solomon also made threats toward a local politician and a woman, according to authorities.

He was charged with accepting money from an FBI agent posing as a drug dealer and faces a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

Sims also took issue with the government’s use of the term “facilitating drug trafficking” in connection with Solomon’s criminal case.

“Indeed, Solomon could not have been charged with or convicted of possession with intent to distribute or distribution of drugs because such a conviction requires that the defendant possess or sell actual drugs, which is not the case here,” Sims wrote.

Solomon, she claimed, could not have been charged with nor convicted of selling “nonexistent” drugs:

“The government seek(s) to have this court sentence Solomon for the fictional and nonexistent crime of facilitating a conspiracy.

“In particular, the government alleges that the primary purpose of Mr. Solomon’s role was to prevent other police officers from learning of the fake shipment of drugs by directing them away from the scene, conduct more consistent with ‘concealing or obstructing justice’ as opposed to ‘facilitating’ the offense.”

Any ambiguity in the case, Sims wrote, must be resolved in favor of Solomon.

She claims the government “successfully ensnared … a career police officer and emergency medical technician … bringing his long and modestly remunerative career as a public servant and first responder to a devastating and ignominious end.”

The document notes that Solomon worked as a part-time officer for East Washington for 19 years until 2009, when he was promoted to chief. He also worked as an emergency medical technician for 35 years.

“He no longer works as a first responder, but as a grocery store clerk,” the document said.

The fact that Solomon had never before been charged with a crime seemed to carry little weight with Hickton as he discussed the case Tuesday in Washington.

“The Solomon case is an outrageous case of official corruption, and I have been participating directly to send a message about how significant I think that case is,” Hickton said in an interview.

Hickton said the case was “a rather extreme example of offering protection to drug dealers, selling Tasers to drug dealers, and I will be in the courtroom when we argue for a very substantial sentence to send a message that that is not acceptable.”

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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