Byron Whitaker’s situation was complicated.
His phone was in one hand, engaged in conversation with Leonard Deshazier, 38, a man who is pegged by federal investigators as a provider of powdered cocaine and marijuana. In his other hand, Whitaker gripped a police receiver.
After Whitaker responded to Deshazier with a simple “yeah,” the receiver provided further confirmation of Whitaker’s occupied status.
Through the receiver, a female voice could be heard saying, “Signal four, no injuries involved.” Whitaker responded again, this time to the receiver, and went back to his job as a uniformed officer with the Florida A&M police department.
Today at 1:30 p.m., Whitaker, 32, will appear in front of Chief Judge Stephan P. Mickle to be sentenced after pleading guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and making false statements to a federal agent. The court accepted his plea of guilty Jan. 12.
He faces up to 10 years in prison.
According to a statement filed by U.S. Attorney Pamela Marsh, the investigation into Whitaker’s dealings with Deshazier spanned March 9, 2010, through May 19, 2010. During that time “approximately 27 contacts between Whitaker’s Verizon cellular phone and the target telephones were the subject of pen register orders as well as Title III intercept authorization.”
Title III applications include interceptions of forms of electronic surveillance. In more basic terms, the application included phone surveillance. The instance where Whitaker could be overheard discussing a potential deal while juggling police duties occurred on March 27, 2010, at 3:02 p.m.
The federal investigation into Whitaker was aided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who confirmed Whitaker was, at the time, employed by Florida A&M’s police department. Whitaker was a veteran of nearly five years with FAMU PD.
Whether or not Whitaker sold to students at either Florida State or FAMU has not been confirmed.
Whitaker’s dealings with Deshazier and subsequent arrest played like a movie.
Marsh’s statement of facts detailed Whitaker’s contacts, his false statements to federal agents, which indluded him saying that he did not have direct knowledge of Deshazier’s drug trafficking, even the code language Whitaker used when dealing with Deshazier.
Whitaker would use benign phrases like 850 – Tallahassee’s area code – instead of a direct dollar amount for marijuana prices.
Deshazier and Whitaker would talk about “Reggie” as though he were a person. Reggie was in fact a name they used for “mid-level” grade marijuana.
After Deshazier’s arrest on a cocaine charge on May 20, 2010, federal agent’s contacted Whitaker via Deshazier’s phone number. When confronted by special agents, Whitaker denied “seeing, receiving or purchasing any narcotics from Deshazier on any occasion.”
The Famuan will continue to follow Whitaker’s sentencing and provide updates on the case.